Noah Webster

A reprint of the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language has been available for more than a decade now. A dear friend gave me one, and I suggest that every Christian home have one. Why buy an old dictionary? This volume was the completed work of Noah Webster and became the source for educational vocabulary definitions throughout the states. Within the definitions one will find the reason for owning it. Words are defined with their language root, with their verb tense, with their etymology evolution, and often with a Bible verse added for use in context. Most modern dictionaries have begun to drop all of these added bits of knowledge, and of course, the Bible is assumed to be inferior in its use of contextual definition in favor of anything else. The biblical world view presented in various definitions, such as Webster’s lengthy examples for the word study, includes quotes from Milton, Temple, Dryden, and Swift along with I Thessalonians, showing the common use in classic literature of the same biblical sense. When the reader then goes to the classic work, he has that biblical framework of etymology.

There are some interesting facts about Noah Webster that many students will enjoy. He was a Yale educated lawyer and became interested in language to the point that he published a three-part work of spelling, grammar, and reading which took the nickname the Blue-backed Speller because of its dark blue cover. It was the only such publication in the states in 1785 and sold close to 100 million copies, making Webster a household name. He was related to William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth Plantation on his mother’s side, and often used Puritan tradition in his writings. Upon his death, his family did not have enough interest in his works to keep them and sold the rights to the Merriam brothers. It is only out of their good will (and possibly needing the use of the famous name) that the name Webster remains on the dictionary: the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.