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Preface to a Dictionary of the English Language

Samuel Johnson

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .they are sometimes omitted, defect in such minute observations will be more easily excused, than superfluity.

In the investigation both of the orthography and signification of words, their ETYMOLOGY was necessarily to be considered, and they were therefore to be divided into primitives and derivatives. A primitive word, is that which can be traced no further to any English root; thus circumspect, circumvent, circumstance, delude, concave and complicate, though compounds in the Latin, are to us primitives. Derivatives are all those that can be referred to any word in English of greater simplicity.

The derivatives I have referred to their primitives, with an accuracy sometimes needless; for who does not see that remoteness comes from remote, lovely from love, concavity from concave, and demonstrative from demonstrate? but this grammatical exuberance the scheme of my work did not allow me to repress. It is of great importance in . . . Read More

Community Reviews

It's fascinating to think that there wasn't always an English dictionary and that someone had to be the first to write one. Even more fascinating to realize the first was from the efforts of a single person. Paired with a good biography of Johnson, this is a really interesting exploration of what la

For years, when my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas, I would jokingly say, "The first or fourth edition of Johnson's Dictionary." She never came through, and I don't know why - those editions only cost around $10,000 U.S. Over the years I've toyed with buying a facsimile edit

Interesting concepts of the meaning of words; still one sided.

Interesting. I am fascinated with language and its development and it is so easy to take dictionaries for granted in this world of instant information overload. Not so at all times as Johnson makes clear.