Webster's Online Dictionary
The Rosetta Edition™
About the Project
Our mission is to create the largest dictionary of modern language usage (the equivalent of 500 encyclopedias). The dictionary consists of over 30 modern languages, and 10 ancestral languages, with over 30 million individual entries across languages (including expressions, technical terminologies, and words). The languages included are read or spoken by over 95 percent of the world's population. The world's largest dictionary should be free to consult by all persons of the world, via the Internet.
Many private-sector attempts to create Internet-based dictionaries were done so with the goal of creating advertising revenues. While many of these sites have since vanished, the remaining are finding the need to charge subscriptions, thus limiting the availability of knowledge to those who can afford it. Many parts of the developing world, or individuals without abilities to use electronic payments are denied access to many of these sites, or their unabridged versions. Furthermore, other sites have largely been created with a narrow scope (e.g. definitions only, abbreviations only, synonyms only, translations only, etc.), forcing users to subscribe to many such sites that are largely monolingual. This project seeks to allow public access to as much knowledge as possible without the reliance on subscription revenues. This project involved four years of development starting in 1999. The project began loading content in July 2003. Statistics collected on word lookup and usage will be available on the site for academic research beginning in 2004. The project is housed using the server space of Professor Philip M. Parker, Eli Lilly Chair Professor of Innovation, Business and Society, at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France and Singapore. The server space was has been paid for using his individual faculty research funds. INSEAD is a non-profit international educational institution. This use of these funds is gratefully acknowledged.
The Project's Editorial Philosophy
If a word in any language is used to communicate meaning, it therefore is a word. The energy debating over whether words are "real", "official", "slang" or popular enough to be included in a dictionary is better spent including them in dictionaries so that others can enjoy the debate. The reader will see included, for example, many new words popularized in song lyrics and movies (incredible treasure troves of new "words"). There is no editorial policy of word exclusion or censorship. Derogatory or vulgar words are included and defined as such. This policy is also pragmatic, as we simply do not have the volunteer staff hours available to make word selection editorial decisions.
Why call it "Webster's"?
We were originally
interested in honoring Samuel Johnson, but after Black Adder (played by Rowan
Atkinson and written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton) so brilliantly lampooned
Dr. Johnson, we simply needed another name. Of course, the name of Johannes
Gutenberg was already taken by the very worthwhile Project Gutenberg Electronic
Public Library, and we did not want to cause any confusion. We were more than
pleased to finally honor Noah Webster. Debates notwithstanding, the 1913 edition
of Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines a "word"
as: "The spoken sign of a
conception or an idea; an articulate or vocal sound, or a combination of
articulate and vocal sounds, uttered by the human voice, and by custom
expressing an idea or ideas; a single component part of human speech or
language; a constituent part of a sentence; a term; a vocable." It is using this inspired definition
that this dictionary of "words" was created for people from many linguistic
cultures, in honor of the American educator Noah Webster.
We also call it
Webster's in his honor as an editorial pioneer. Noah Webster was one of the
first dictionary writers to buck convention and define (even spell) words
according to common usage, especially American usage - accepting color as
used in the United States versus colour as used in Britain. In a similar
vein, we include as many versions of a given word as possible, including general
and specialized synonyms. Furthermore, we name this effort after Webster as we
used, like so many other modern dictionaries (including those of his children
and G. & C. Merriam Co.), his definitions (which are now part of the public
domain) as a starting point. It is not surprising for aficionados to find a
verbatim Noah Webster definition, or one that borrows long passages, in
dictionaries not bearing his name or giving credit. This has been rather common
practice in the world of lexicography, as we could have easily used the names of
Nathan Bailey or Samuel Johnson, instead of Noah Webster. In our case, we give
general credit to Webster as most of the definitions for a bulk of the English
section of The Rosetta Edition, share a lexicographic heritage from Webster. If
a definition has been updated from his original, then the more recent definition
is offered. If not, then Webster's original definition, or one from the 1913
unabridged dictionary bearing his name, is offered and credited. Technical terminology not known at
the time of Webster is defined using modern sources, but these represent a small
percent of the definitions given.
Why The Rosetta
Edition? In his life time, Noah Webster learned over 25 languages. Given his
polyglot background, we combined Webster's name with Rosetta in honor of his
contemporary Jean François Champollion, the intellectual giant in Egyptology who
deciphered the three parallel inscriptions carved in hieroglyphs, demotic and
Greek on the famous Rosetta Stone. Having decrypted a lost language, Champollion
exposed the world to a civilization and its history. Starting from Webster's
definitions, we have also tried to offer a modern Rosetta Stone which can
introduce the reader to a large variety of linguistic cultures.
Finally, there are positive externalities. Webster's, often spelled Websters, has fallen into public use as a general word for "American English" or even "dictionary" when one is searching for a definition using Internet search engines. By naming the site and its URL with the term "Webster's", we stand a far greater chance of being found on the Internet, thus increasing the impact of this project. No apologies for this are given.
In no way (other than a common lexicographical heritage) is this project related to dictionaries bearing the trademark or name "Merriam-Webster" (Merriam-Webster, Inc.). According to Merriam-Webster, Inc. "Merriam-Webster products are backed by over 150 years of accumulated knowledge and experience. The Merriam-Webster name is your assurance that a reference work carries the quality and authority of a company that has been publishing since 1831." For more information of Merriam-Webster dictionaries click here. In a similar vein, this site has absolutely no affiliation with Random House, the publisher of Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. We are also not affiliated with Webster's New World, publishers of various dictionaries carrying the name Webster, including Webster's New World College Dictionary, Indexed. Nor are we affiliated with other book publishers that have created printed or electronic dictionaries bearing the name of Webster.
How was it created?
If you want to learn more on how the Rosetta Edition was created, or to create your own on-line dictionary, please see the credits page.
Can I Copy Material from this Site?
Can I contribute to the Project?
there are many ways you can contribute to this site.
Editorial Comment or Praise: If you would like to send us a constructive
editorial comment, or praise that we can freely use on the site, with no
restrictions, these are welcome. We cannot, at this point, respond to users, but
are happy to receive their comments. We reserve the right to post these to the
site (you are relinquishing ownership of your comments), so please send only
comments that can be attributed to you that you are happy to share with the
public. If you have a general comment about the site, send these to:
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have comments about a particular word, please
send these to email@example.com;
please write the word in the subject line. We will never re-use or resell your
email address. We use hotmail for these comments so as to prevent potential
attacks on our server. We do not have to staff to respond to comments, so we
wish thank you in advance for feedback.
Electronic Bi-lingual Language File: We are thrilled to accept contributions
in bits and bytes. We have been especially grateful to readers who have sent in
bi-lingual language files. These must have no copyrights attached, and be in a
clean format (i.e. English words or expressions in column#1 and the translation
in column #2; Ms Access and/or Excel are preferred file formats but we can
handle just about anything). For the moment, we are most interested in languages
of indigenous peoples in all regions of the world (including transliterations).
We would like to give priority to languages spoken by over 1 million persons,
but are happy to accept files from less populous linguistic cultures.
Electronic English Dictionary: As for English language dictionaries, we must
be careful about copyrights. Most publications prior to the early 1920s are free
from copyright in their physical from. Their modern electronic versions may not
be, however. So, we are only interested in copyright free electronic files. Here
is our wish list:
Middle English to 17th Century: The encyclopedic compendiums including the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville, and the collective 13th-century works of Vincent of Beauvais, Roger Bacon, and Brunetto Latini. From then to the 17th Century, the largest dictionaries contained but 5,000 entries, which are largely covered in 18th Century works. Nevertheless, if you have an electronic version of any such work, we would be thrilled to see if any entries can be included in this site.
Century: The 18th Century yielded modern and mass-produced English and
American-English spelling books, dictionaries, gazetteers and
encyclopedias. Webster’s Spelling Book, for example, appeared in 1783 and
was the first known dictionary-type book to sell more than 1 million copies a
year. Our electronic file dream list from this period includes:
· Lawrence Echard of the Gazetteer’s or Newsman’s Interpreter, a geographical index, 1703.
· John Harris, Lexicon technicum, an encyclopedia, 1704.
· Nathan Bailey, Universal Etymological English Dictionary 1721; Dictionarium Britannicum, 1730.
· Samuel Johnson, Dictionary of the English Language, 1755.
· Encyclopaedia Britannica, in three volumes, 1768–71.
· William Kenrick, dictionary editions starting from 1773.
· Thomas Sheridan, dictionary editions starting from 1780.
· Noah Webster, Webster’s Spelling Book, 1783.
John Walker dictionary editions from 1791.
19th Century: The 19th Century gave birth to “massive” dictionaries. The 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary was first conceived in this period, from 1884 to 1928 in Britain, and offered histories of over 200,000 words and definitions for over 400,000 words. In 1891, The Century Dictionary was published in 6-volumes in America. Here is our wish list:
· Noah Webster, Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, 1806.
· Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, in two volumes, 1828.
· Francis Lieber , editor, The Encyclopedia Americana, in 13 volumes, 1829–33.
· Charles Anthon's Classical Dictionary (any edition from the mid 1800s)
· Joseph Emerson Worcester, American dictionaries starting from 1830; revised edition in 1860.
· Charles Richardson, dictionaries, any two volume edition, 1836–37.
· Noah Webster, his unabridged 5th edition, 1846.
· Sir James A. H. Murray, New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and Murray’s Dictionary (1837–1915, one of the editors). Publication of the OED began in 1884 and was completed in 1928. Volumes before 1925 are most wanted.
· Works from various gazetteers, including Johnston’s (Scotland, 1850), Blackie’s (Scotland, 1850), Longman’s (England, 1895), and Lippincott’s (United States, 1865)
· The Century Dictionary, in six volumes, 1891; Supplementary volumes include The Century Cyclopedia of Names (1894) and The Century Atlas of the World (1897)
Funk and Wagnall's Standard, 1895.
20th Century: Our dream dictionary from this period is Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, 1922. Dictionaries past 1922 risk not being free from copyright restrictions.
21st Century: If you have an electronic dictionary of modern slang or specialized vocabulary, in any language, that is free from copyright restrictions, we are always interested.
in non-English languages are also welcome. Unfortunately, we are very busy
loading the materials we already have. We can accept computer files now, but
these will not be used until after our backlog is loaded. To donate files,
please first email to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Joelle Fabert speaks French & English, and coordinates dictionary files and
public correspondence). Large files may need to be burned onto CDs and mailed to
Joelle using the following address: Professor Philip M. Parker, c/o Joelle
Fabert, INSEAD, Bd. de Constance, 77305, Fontainebleau, France. Please note that
Phil and Joelle are volunteers, and apologize if they are not be able to get
back to people if the work load is too high.
Physical Dictionaries: If you have an old dictionary published before 1925
that is heavily damaged (including those missing covers, but with legible title
pages) or of no economic value, we may be interested. In addition to the
dictionaries listed above, any specialty dictionary or encyclopedia with
definitions of words not yet defined in this site may prove useful. On a very selective basis, we are
currently hand entering definitions from older dictionaries using a small data
entry firm in Togo (West Africa); they charge us direct labor costs only. It is important that the dictionary be
published before 1925 and thus be free of copyright restrictions. The
dictionaries listed above are of most interest. Older bi-lingual dictionaries of
any language combination are also welcome. Please send the dictionaries to
Professor Philip M. Parker, c/o Joelle Fabert, INSEAD, Bd. De Constance, 77305
Fontainebleau, France. Dictionaries that are donated will not be returned, and
there is no guarantee they will be used. We will return a receipt, via email, to
all donors. If usable, donated dictionaries will likely end up in schools or
libraries in West Africa. We are not able to reimburse postage.
via affiliates: You will notice that many of the references in this site are
linked to books or other items with our affiliates (amazon.com, bn.com,
ebay.com, clipart.com, and icongrouponline.com). These organizations have either
donated maintenance funds, content (see Credits), or will continue to provides
funds, if you purchase items from their sites by clicking from this site.
In cooperation with ICON Group
International, Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com will contribute some 5 percent of the price
of items you purchase; Clipart.com will also contribute some 30 percent of the
revenues they receive by people subscribing to their site from our site; ebay.com will contribute some 5 cents per bid
and additional funds if you sign up to ebay if you visit them via the links in
our site. All monies are earmarked for building the content of the site.
Important: you need to click on a link from this site and directly purchase any
item on the affiliates site for us to receive funding. In fact, if you click on
the links in this paragraph and purchase items from these sites, you will be
contributing to the growth of this dictionary.