What Is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary?


Quick Answer

The Merriam-Webster dictionary is the lexicon published by Merriam-Webster. The company publishes a variety of dictionaries and thesauri in print and online formats. The first version appeared on September 24, 1847, with a purchase price of $6. President James K. Polk was one of many to praise the new arrival.

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What Is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary?
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Full Answer

George and Charles Merriam founded a bookselling and printing operation in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1831, calling it G. & C. Merriam Co., and it has operated continuously since that time. In 1843, the company purchased the rights to Noah Webster's "An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged," which had come out in 1841. The agreement included the rights to make future revised editions of the dictionary.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, some confusion arose regarding the lineage of the actual Webster's dictionary tradition. Other companies began issuing dictionaries with the name Webster on them, with a wide variance in quality. In 1982, the company took on the name Merriam-Webster in order to bring some clarity to the situation. In 1991, the company introduced the marketing phrase "Not just Webster. Merriam-Webster" to differentiate more clearly between its products and those that had come from other publishers.

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