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One of the logos of Merriam–Webster.

Merriam–Webster, which was originally the G. & C. Merriam Company[1] of Springfield, Massachusetts, is an American company that publishes reference books, especially dictionaries that are descendants of Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).

Merriam-Webster Inc. has been a subsidiary of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. since 1964[2].

Contents

Origins

In 1843, after Noah Webster's death, George and Charles Merriam secured publishing and revision rights to the 1840 edition of the dictionary. They published a modest revision in 1847, and a second update with illustrations in 1859. In 1864, Merriam published a much expanded edition, largely overhauling Noah Webster's work, yet retaining Webster's title, "An American Dictionary". This began a series of revisions known as "Unabridged", which became increasingly more "Merriam" than "Webster".

With the edition of 1890, the dictionary was retitled to "Webster's International". The vocabulary was vastly expanded in "Webster's New International" editions of 1909 and 1934, totaling over half a million words, and retrospectively called "Webster's Second International". Merriam overhauled the dictionary again with the 1961 "Webster's Third New International" under the direction of Philip B. Gove, making changes which sparked public controversy. (For more details on these dictionaries, see Webster's Dictionary.)

The "Collegiate Dictionary" series was initiated in 1898. Since the 1940s, the company has added many specialized dictionaries, language aides, and other references to its repertoire.

The G. & C. Merriam Company lost its right to exclusive use of the name "Webster" after a series of lawsuits placed it in public domain. Its name was changed to Merriam–Webster Inc. with the publication of Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary in 1983. The company has been a subsidiary of Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. since 1964.

Today

In 1996, Merriam-Webster launched its first website, which still provides free access to an online dictionary and thesaurus.[3] As of 2003, the company's two best known dictionaries are:

Merriam–Webster has also published dictionaries of synonyms, English usage, geography (Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary), biography, proper names, medical terms, sports terms, slang, SpanishEnglish, and numerous others. Non-dictionary publications include Collegiate Thesaurus, Secretarial Handbook, Manual for Writers and Editors, Collegiate Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of Literature, and Encyclopedia of World Religions.

On February 14, 2007 Merriam–Webster announced it was working with mobile search and information provider AskMeNow to launch a mobile dictionary and thesaurus service enabling consumers to access definitions, spelling and synonyms via text message. Services also include Merriam–Webster's Word of the Day and Open Dictionary, a wiki service promising subscribers the opportunity to create and submit their own new words and definitions.

Pronunciation guides

The Merriam–Webster company once used a unique set of phonetic symbols in their dictionaries which permitted people from various parts of the US to learn how to pronounce new words as others who spoke with the same accent or dialect did. But Unicode did not specify room for these characters in their list. To enable a variety of computer systems to access the pronunciation, the online services of Merriam–Webster specify a less-specific use of ASCII characters, which should not be confused with the former print fonts.

See also

References

External links

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