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BASED ON THE LATEST CONCLUSIONS OF THE Most EMINENT PHILOLOGISTS
COMPRISING MANY THOUSANDS OF NEW WORDS WHICH MODERN
EXISTENCE AND COMMON USAGE
Together with Pronunciations the most approved ; Etymologies based on the researches of Skeai,
masters of the language, but never before published in any Lexicon.
T is confidently expected that this dictionary will commend itself to all those who favor books of reference on the multum in parvo plan. Every accepted word in the English language will be found in its pages; and, in addition, many technical terms which the advance of modern science and the recent rapid
spread of useful knowledge in the United States have made part and parcel of our popular literature; also many old words and meanings found in the writings of the Elizabethan and Queen Anne periods. It has been found necessary to enlarge upon many words, whose full and real meaning is not adequately disclosed by a mere definition. To all definitions which do not apply in this country, the American meaning has been added. Local meanings, words and phrases ; provincialisms, both English and American, and a few slang words and phrases—all of which are instructive as showing the natural growth, and in some cases the debasement, of the pure stock of our language—are given for what they are worth, and only in such instances as are to be met with in early and recent standard works
The etymology of each word will be found at the end of the definition of the primitive word. These etymologies will be found to differ materially from those found in other dictionaries, of even recent date. As it is only within the past twenty-five years that the etymology of English words has attained even the semblance of an exact science, these new etymologies will be found, in general, more correct than those of any preceding work. The industrious labors of Skeat, Wedgwood and other recent authorities on English philology, leave the most patient lexicographer with many open questions upon his hands. For this very sufficient reason, the editors of this dictionary announce, simply, that they have given the latest and what to them seem the most imperative conclusions of the science of English philology-a science which, though rapidly progressing, is still, on the whole, quite incomplete.
We have but to add that, in general, the aim of the editors of the “ American Dictionary of the English Language” has been to give to the public a convenient lexicon which will decide all questions about words, which arise in the course of general reading, and to give to the American reading public the latest, most authentic and most complete conclusions of English philology.
NEW YORK, March 1, 1892.
W HEN Pope wrote “ The proper study of mankind | cost their author so much to get together, must be
V is man," he gave to the world a most palpable omitted ; though, despite all this, there is but one truism. It seems to us of this age of science, that the l « Webster's Unabridged.” much-quoted assertion was hardly worth the penning. Modern English etymology divides all languages Every science now leads up to and down to man. In into Aryan and non-Aryan. Our language is one of him chemistry has its highest exponent; zoology, its the former; Hebrew and Arabic belong to the latter acme; astronomy, the final object of its search among classification. It is easy to conclude, therefore, that no the planets as well as the final object of solar and English word is derived from a Hebrew or an Arabian planetary influences. If we search the stratified rocks root; and that no word of either Hebrew or Arabian of geology, we find his imprint and those of his animal extraction could come into the English unless the word “ ancestors" in Evolution. Geographical exploration was actually borrowed and made a part of the latter finds him, or the remnants of him, wellnigh everythrough custom and constant usage. If the English
here. Archæology excavates and deciphers hiero-speaking people could not come in contact with the glyphics, and lo! the buried city and the long-locked | people of Arabia or Palestine, we would have no Hemausoleum give up the dead rulers and chieftains of brew or Arabian words in our language. In the early prehistoric ages.
ages of civilization, peaceable inter - visitations beFor centuries learned men studied the various lan tween even neighboring peoples were few and infreguages and dialects of the earth. They brought the quent; and between distant peoples, absolute non-interdead languages of ancient civilizations into schools and course was the rule with very slight exception. Two colleges. More recently they studied the rude and un- very important facts must be noted, as the natural couth languages and dialects of barbarous and savage and inevitable result of this. tribes. They sagely guessed at the origin of modern First, the two original divisions of languages found words, and many of their guesses were printed in at the dawn of written history—the Aryan and the books and studied as philology. Naturally, the fount. non-Aryan-had a tendency to diverge more and more ain-head from which flowed the stream of their inves- widely from each other as time advanced. Each grew tigations was the Syro-Chaldaic, the supposed original and developed and changed along different basic lines, language of the Semitic people, spoken in the cradle of and in obedience to different climatic, social, moral and the human race. On this basic line the dead lan- even physiological influences. Under primitive conguages, and many of the languages of modern Europe, ditions the divergence of the two languages had a were studied, their roots were unearthed and deci tendency to more and more estrange the nations and phered, and the older French, German and other Con peoples speaking them, to build up widely differing tinental savants piled up a philological literature of systems of government, religion, and the other conenormous proportions, hopelessly locked against the comitants of civilizationx At this day, therefore, we nonprofessional, and for the most part utterly worth should not expect to find words in the English-one of less, in the light of modern philological research, the Aryan family of languages-whose roots are trace
The philological savants of England and America able to a non-Aryan language, such as the Hebrew. were content to follow the German and French scholars We must note, secondly, that two peoples of the in this line of investigation. The old and misleading | Aryan race, and whose remote ancestors originally line of philological research was not seriously taken up spoke the same language, might, in the course of ages, to any extent, in even the highest English and American become so widely separated as to develop finally into institutions of learning. No original investigations very different and differently-speaking communities. were attempted. The French and German scholars The original word-spoken exactly alike before their had pre-empted the field, and the occasional echo heard separation-would become modified so that it would at Oxford or Harvard was from some imported Orient- be different in sound. The fact, therefore, that an alist who had studied and travelled among cuneiform English word sounds very much like a word we may inscriptions and had finished his studies at Paris or find in some other language does not prove, or even Berlin.
tend to prove, that the two words are related. On the The exception to this, in this country, is of course contrary, if the two words in question had been origithe great“ Webster's Unabridged Dictionary,” so long nally the same word, they would now be very differentvalued for its depth and for its patient and painstak would look but very little, if any, alike! In the study of ing selection of the results of French and German | linguistic roots we must be cautious, go slow, and not philological research up to the date of its publication. be led astray by mere appearances. But the investigations, the systematized canons of The comparative study of languages, which is now derivation, and the classification of root-forms to be absolutely essential to the proper study of English etyfound in that great work of a laborious lifetime, will mology, has a most important aid in the comparative live in history as the magnificent ruin of a noble struct study of peoples-their manners, customs, religious beure which but for a few short years outlived its liefs and superstitions, their folk-lore and their legendbuilder. In modern editions of the “Unabridged,” ary literature. And, conversely, since the new era of the bulk of the philological canons and systems, which comparative philology has dawned upon the world of