When the Real Academia Española (RAE) was founded in 1713, one of its primary objectives compiling a Castilian Spanish dictionary. Its first endeavor was the six-volume Diccionario de Autoridades (Dictionary of Authorities) from 1726 to 1739. Based on that work, the DRAE itself was compiled as an abridged version, and published in 1780. The full title of that first edition was the Diccionario de la lengua castellana compuesto por la Real Academia Española, reducido á un tomo para su más fácil uso ("Dictionary of the Castilian language composed by the Royal Spanish Academy, reduced to one volume for easier use"). Per the prologue, the DRAE was published for general public access to a dictionary during the long time between the publishing of the first and second editions of the exhaustive Authorities Dictionary, thus offering a cheaper reference book; by when the second DRAE edition was published, it had become the principal dictionary, superseding its ancestor; the last edition of the Diccionario de Autoridades was published in 1793.
Historically, the decision to add, modify, or delete words from the dictionary has been by the Real Academia Española, RAE, in consultation with other language authorities (especially in Latin America) when there was an uncertainty. This process continued between 1780 and 1992, but, since the 1992 edition, the RAE and the twenty-one discrete language academies of Latin America collaborate in producing the the Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Royal Spanish Academy.
Editions of the DRAE (year, edition): 1780 (1ª) – 1783 (2ª) - 1791 (3ª) – 1803 (4ª) - 1817 (5ª) – 1822 (6ª) – 1832 (7ª)– 1837 (8ª)– 1843 (9ª) – 1852 (10ª) – 1869 (11ª) – 1884 (12ª) – 1899 (13ª) – 1914 (14ª) – 1925 (15ª) – 1936/1939 (16ª) – 1947 (17ª) – 1956 (18ª) – 1970 (19ª) – 1984 (20ª) - 1992 (21ª) - 2001 (22ª).
The earliest editions were more extensive: they included Latin translations of the entry, in some cases gave usage examples (especially in popular phrases), and summarized the word's etymology; contemporary editions do so concisely. The earliest editions had "X" entries that no longer appear individually.
In 2006, The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities complained that some of the dictionary's entries and definitions about Judaism were racistly offensive. One definition of sinagoga (synagogue) is: "a meeting for illicit ends"; the nominal definition of sinagogue is given first, and the pejorative definition is so identified.
Yerba-buena, an association of Spanish Gitanos ("Gypsies" in English), complains that one definition of Gitano: "one who practices deceit" or "one who tricks", is offensive and could encourage racism; nevertheless, the word gitano does actually mean "trickster" in Spanish, and other Spanish dictionaries include this definition.
The Madrid Gay, Lesbian Transsexual Collective has complained of offense by the definition of Marica:
Eulàlia Lledó believes that ajamonarse: "to become like a ham, become pregnant" is inherently sexist. Galicians take offense to the definition of Gallego: "a Galician, dumb, stupid or deaf." Some of these groups propose deletion of these pejorative definitions, while others feel that the entries should be flagged as offensive. This latter approach is similar to the policy of many English dictionaries; for example, the American Heritage Dictionary includes the word nigger, labelling it "offensive slang" and a "disparaging term."
- f. urraca (English: "magpie")
- [. . .]
- m. colloquial. effeminate, weak man.