What is the history behind the Merriam-Webster dictionary?


Quick Answer

In 1831, the Merriam brothers opened a printing and book selling business and also bought the rights to Noah Webster's "An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged" in 1843, the year Noah Webster passed away. The first Merriam-Webster dictionary was released in 1847 after previous versions of Webster's dictionary did not sell well. Webster's original dictionary was sold at $20 (the price later dropped to $15 for an updated version, but this was still too high to successfully sell), while the Merriam-Webster revised version was sold at the much lower price of $6, allowing it to become much more successful.

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What is the history behind the Merriam-Webster dictionary?
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Full Answer

The name Merriam-Webster was not official until 1982. Formerly, G. & C. Merriam Company, the change was made to prevent copyright issues. Due to the extreme success of Webster's dictionaries produced over decades, and the association of the Webster name with top-quality and trusted dictionaries and literary reference pieces, many dictionaries were produced under the Webster name or associated with the Webster name, without the proper copyrights. This way, while other companies may claim the name of Webster for their dictionaries and reference materials, only Merriam-Webster can be properly attributed to the original Noah Webster and Merriam brothers. Currently, Merriam-Webster products include other reference works as well as numerous online resources.

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