- Informal. a dictionary of the English language, especially American English, such as Dictionary.com.
Also called Webster's dictionary.
Webster's, as the short name for a dictionary, most likely referred originally to the comprehensive dictionary An American Dictionary of the English Language, written over the course of 27 years by Noah Webster (1758-1843) and first published in 1828. This was not Webster's first dictionary (that one, much smaller, was published in 1806 as A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language ). Nor was Webster necessarily the author of the very first American English dictionary; some scholars assign that honor to one Samuel Johnson (not the Samuel Johnson, famed British lexicographer of a century earlier). But Noah Webster's major dictionary may well be thought of as the first to Americanize the English lexicon, incorporating many words that were distinct parts of American life, like skunk and squash, words that had not previously been recorded in dictionaries, and simplifying British spellings—for example, substituting color for colour and center for centre . For many years, the copyright to the Webster name belonged only to dictionaries published by the G. and C. Merriam Company, later renamed Merriam-Webster. Later, after the name came into the public domain, many dictionaries were able to call themselves Webster's, and the name came to be used frequently as an informal synonym for dictionary , whoever the publisher was and whatever name did or did not appear on the cover.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018