About the Project
What do you get when you start with Webster’s classic 1913 unabridged dictionary, and you add updated definitions, thousands of images (one picture being worth a thousand words…), quotes, trade names, references, timelines, translations and any other bit of information that can help someone understand a word from as many perspectives as possible? For any given word, what you get is Webster’s Online Dictionary with Multilingual Thesaurus Translation.
Our mission is to create the largest dictionary of modern language usage (the equivalent of 500 encyclopedias). The dictionary will soon consist of over 400 modern languages, and 10 ancestral languages, with some 30 million individual entries across languages (including expressions, technical terminologies, and words). The languages included are read or spoken by over 95 percent of the world's population. The world's largest dictionary should be free to consult by all persons of the world, via the Internet.
Many private-sector attempts to create Internet-based dictionaries were done so with the goal of creating advertising revenues. While many of these sites have since vanished, the remaining are finding the need to charge subscriptions, thus limiting the availability of knowledge to those who can afford it. Many parts of the developing world, or individuals without abilities to use electronic payments are denied access to many of these sites, or their unabridged versions. Furthermore, other sites have largely been created with a narrow scope (e.g. definitions only, abbreviations only, synonyms only, translations only, etc.), forcing users to subscribe to many such sites that are largely monolingual. This project seeks to allow public access to as much knowledge as possible without the reliance on subscription revenues. This project involved four years of development starting in 1999. The project began loading content in July 2003. Statistics collected on word lookup and usage will be available on the site for academic research beginning in 2004. The project is housed using the server space of Professor Philip M. Parker, Eli Lilly Chair Professor of Innovation, Business and Society, at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France and Singapore. The server space was has been paid for using his individual faculty research funds. INSEAD is a non-profit international educational institution. This use of these funds is gratefully acknowledged.
The Project's Editorial Philosophy
Debates notwithstanding, the 1913 edition of Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines a "word" as: "The spoken sign of a conception or an idea; an articulate or vocal sound, or a combination of articulate and vocal sounds, uttered by the human voice, and by custom expressing an idea or ideas; a single component part of human speech or language; a constituent part of a sentence; a term; a vocable." It is using this inspired definition that this dictionary of "words" was created for people from many linguistic cultures, in honor of the American educator Noah Webster.
If a word in any language is used to communicate meaning, it therefore is a word. The energy debating over whether words are "real", "official", "slang" or popular enough to be included in a dictionary is better spent including them in dictionaries so that others can enjoy the debate. The reader will see included, for example, many new words popularized in song lyrics and movies (incredible treasure troves of new "words"). There is no editorial policy of word exclusion or censorship. Derogatory or vulgar words are included and defined as such. This policy is also pragmatic, as we simply do not have the volunteer staff hours available to make word selection editorial decisions. We let a computer do the talking.
Why the Name?
Noah Webster was one of the first dictionary writers to buck convention and define (even spell) words according to common usage, especially American usage - accepting color as used in the United States versus colour as used in Britain. In a similar vein, we include as many versions of a given word as possible, including general and specialized synonyms. Since we have used, like so many other modern dictionaries (including those of his children and G. & C. Merriam Co.), Webster’s definitions (which are now part of the public domain) as a starting point. It is not surprising for aficionados to find a verbatim Noah Webster definition, or one that borrows long passages. In our case, we give general credit to Webster as most of the definitions for a bulk of the English section of The Rosetta Edition, share a lexicographic heritage from Webster. If a definition has been updated from his original, then the more recent definition is offered. If not, then Webster's original definition, or one from the 1913 unabridged dictionary bearing his name, is offered and credited. Technical terminology not known at the time of Webster is defined using modern sources.
Why The Rosetta Edition? In his lifetime, Noah Webster learned over 25 languages. Given his polyglot background, we combined Webster's name with Rosetta in honor of his contemporary Jean Franջois Champollion, the intellectual giant in Egyptology who deciphered the three parallel inscriptions carved in hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek on the famous Rosetta Stone. Having decrypted a lost language, Champollion exposed the world to a civilization and its history. Starting from Webster's definitions, we have also tried to offer a modern Rosetta Stone which can introduce the reader to a large variety of linguistic cultures and word usage styles.
In no way (other than a common lexicographical heritage) is this project related to dictionaries bearing the trademark or name "Merriam-Webster" (Merriam-Webster, Inc.). According to Merriam-Webster, Inc. "Merriam-Webster products are backed by over 150 years of accumulated knowledge and experience. The Merriam-Webster name is your assurance that a reference work carries the quality and authority of a company that has been publishing since 1831." For more information of Merriam-Webster dictionaries click here. In a similar vein, this site has absolutely no affiliation with Random House, the publisher of Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. We are also not affiliated with Webster's New World, publishers of various dictionaries carrying the name Webster, including Webster's New World College Dictionary, Indexed.
How to create a dictionary in 30 minutes?
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Can I Copy Material from this Site?
Can I contribute to the
First, most sections of a definition page
cite various references and we would like to thank these references for the
content that they have allowed us to add to the site! Some content was donated,
used under license or used under fair use conditions. Many pages and other
pearls of wisdom were written by a computer, which has a hard time understanding
There are many ways you can contribute to this site as well.
Donate an Editorial Comment or Praise: If you would like to send us a constructive editorial comment, or praise that we can freely use on the site, with no restrictions, these are welcome. We cannot, at this point, respond to users, but are happy to receive their comments. We reserve the right to post these to the site (you are relinquishing ownership of your comments), so please send only comments that can be attributed to you that you are happy to share with the public. If you have a general comment about the site, send these to: email@example.com. If you have comments about a particular word, please send these to firstname.lastname@example.org; please write the word in the subject line. We will never re-use or resell your email address. We use hotmail for these comments so as to prevent potential attacks on our server.
Donate an Electronic Bi-lingual Language File: We are thrilled to accept contributions in bits and bytes. We have been especially grateful to readers who have sent in bi-lingual language files. These must have no copyrights attached, and be in a clean format (i.e. English words or expressions in column#1 and the translation in column #2; Ms Access and/or Excel are preferred file formats but we can handle just about anything). For the moment, we are most interested in languages of indigenous peoples in all regions of the world (including transliterations). We would like to give priority to languages spoken by over 1 million persons, but are happy to accept files from less populous linguistic cultures.
Donate an Electronic English Dictionary: As for English language dictionaries, we must be careful about copyrights. Most publications prior to the early 1920s are free from copyright in their physical from. Their modern electronic versions may not be, however. So, we are only interested in copyright free electronic files. Here is our wish list:
Middle English to 17th Century: The encyclopedic compendiums including the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville, and the collective 13th-century works of Vincent of Beauvais, Roger Bacon, and Brunetto Latini. From then to the 17th Century, the largest dictionaries contained only 5,000 entries, which are largely covered in 18th Century works. Nevertheless, if you have an electronic version of any such work, we would be thrilled to see if any entries can be included in this site (of course will full attribution).
18th Century: The 18th Century yielded modern and mass-produced English and American-English spelling books, dictionaries, gazetteers and encyclopedias. Webster’s Spelling Book, for example, appeared in 1783 and was the first known dictionary-type book to sell more than 1 million copies a year. Our electronic file dream list from this period includes:
գ Lawrence Echard of the Gazetteer’s or Newsman’s Interpreter, a geographical index, 1703.
գ John Harris, Lexicon technicum, an encyclopedia, 1704.
գ Nathan Bailey, Universal Etymological English Dictionary 1721; Dictionarium Britannicum, 1730.
գ Samuel Johnson, Dictionary of the English Language, 1755.
գ Encyclopaedia Britannica, in three volumes, 1768–71.
գ William Kenrick, dictionary editions starting from 1773.
գ Thomas Sheridan, dictionary editions starting from 1780.
գ Noah Webster, Webster’s Spelling Book, 1783.
գ John Walker dictionary editions from 1791.
19th Century: The 19th Century gave birth to “massive” dictionaries. The 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary was first conceived in this period, from 1884 to 1928 in Britain, and offered histories of over 200,000 words and definitions for over 400,000 words. In 1891, The Century Dictionary was published in 6-volumes in America. Here is our wish list:
գ Noah Webster, Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, 1806.
գ Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, in two volumes, 1828.
գ Francis Lieber , editor, The Encyclopedia Americana, in 13 volumes, 1829–33.
գ Charles Anthon's Classical Dictionary (any edition from the mid 1800s)
գ Joseph Emerson Worcester, American dictionaries starting from 1830; revised edition in 1860.
գ Charles Richardson, dictionaries, any two volume edition, 1836–37.
գ Noah Webster, his unabridged 5th edition, 1846.
գ Sir James A. H. Murray, New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and Murray’s Dictionary (1837–1915, one of the editors). Publication of the OED began in 1884 and was completed in 1928. Volumes before 1925 are most wanted.
գ Works from various gazetteers, including Johnston’s (Scotland, 1850), Blackie’s (Scotland, 1850), Longman’s (England, 1895), and Lippincott’s (United States, 1865)
գ The Century Dictionary, in six volumes, 1891; Supplementary volumes include The Century Cyclopedia of Names (1894) and The Century Atlas of the World (1897)
գ Funk and Wagnall's Standard, 1895.
20th Century: Our dream dictionary from this period is Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, 1922. Dictionaries past 1922 risk not being free from copyright restrictions.
21st Century: If you have an electronic dictionary of modern slang or specialized vocabulary, in any language, that is free from copyright restrictions, we are always interested.
Similar works in non-English languages are also welcome. Unfortunately, we are very busy loading the materials we already have. We can accept computer files now, but these will not be used until after our backlog is loaded. To donate files, please first email to email@example.com (Joelle Fabert speaks French & English, and coordinates dictionary files and public correspondence). Large files may need to be burned onto CDs and mailed to Joelle using the following address: Professor Philip M. Parker, c/o Joelle Fabert, INSEAD, Bd. de Constance, 77305, Fontainebleau, France. Please note that Phil and Joelle are volunteers, and apologize if they are not be able to get back to people if the work load is too high.
Donate Physical Dictionaries: If you have an old dictionary published before 1925 that is heavily damaged (including those missing covers, but with legible title pages) or of no economic value, we may be interested. In addition to the dictionaries listed above, any specialty dictionary or encyclopedia with definitions of words not yet defined in this site may prove useful. On a very selective basis, we are currently hand entering definitions from older dictionaries using a small data entry firm in Togo (West Africa); they charge us direct labor costs only. It is important that the dictionary be published before 1925 and thus be free of copyright restrictions. The dictionaries listed above are of most interest. Older bi-lingual dictionaries of any language combination are also welcome. Please send the dictionaries to Professor Philip M. Parker, c/o Joelle Fabert, INSEAD, Bd. De Constance, 77305 Fontainebleau, France. Dictionaries that are donated will not be returned, and there is no guarantee they will be used. We will return a receipt, via email, to all donors. If usable, donated dictionaries will likely end up in schools or libraries in West Africa. We are not able to reimburse postage.
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