Origin of webster

before 1100; Middle English; Old English webbestre. See web, -ster


  1. Daniel,1782–1852, U.S. statesman and orator.
  2. John,c1580–1625?, English dramatist.
  3. Margaret,1905–72, British stage director, producer, and actress, born in the U.S.
  4. Noah,1758–1843, U.S. lexicographer and essayist.
  5. William H(edg·cock) [hej-kok] /ˈhɛdʒˌkɒk/, born 1924, U.S. judge and government official: director of the FBI 1978–87 and of the CIA 1987–91.
  6. a city in central Massachusetts.
  7. Also Web·ster's. Informal. a dictionary of the English language.


  1. Informal. a dictionary of the English language, especially American English, such as Dictionary.com.
Also called Webster's dictionary.

Word story

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

Examples from the Web for webster

Contemporary Examples of webster

Historical Examples of webster

British Dictionary definitions for webster


  1. an archaic word for weaver (def. 1)

Word Origin for webster

Old English webbestre, from webba a weaver, from webb web


  1. Daniel. 1782–1852, US politician and orator
  2. John. ?1580–?1625, English dramatist, noted for his revenge tragedies The White Devil (?1612) and The Duchess of Malfi (?1613)
  3. Noah. 1758–1843, US lexicographer, famous for his American Dictionary of the English Language (1828)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for webster

"a weaver," Old English webbestre "a female weaver," from web (q.v.) + fem. suffix -ster. Noah Webster's dictionary first published 1828.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper