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15 April 2008

On this day in history: Samuel Johnson`s Dictionary published, 1755

"Dictionary, s. a book explaining the words of any language alphabetically; a lexicon"

The above definition is taken from Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, first published on 15th April 1755. Whilst not the first dictionary in the English language - that honour belongs to Robert Cawdrey's A Table Alphabeticall of 1604 - Dr. Johnson's dictionary is widely regarded as one of the most influential. The first edition contained definitions of 42,773 words and took about nine years to compile.

You can read more about Dr. Johnson and his dictionary in Jack Lynch's guide on the Rutgers University web-site. You can also find a review of Lynch's book, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, along with Henry Hitchings' Dr. Johnson Dictionary (both published in 2005 to mark the dictionary's 250th Anniversary) on The Times' web site.

For those that are interested in the earliest dictionary of the English language, University of Toronto's website hosts a hypertext copy of Cawdrey's A Table Alphabeticall.