Worcester’s Dictionary -- By: William H. Wells

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 004:16 (Nov 1847)
Article: Worcester’s Dictionary
Author: William H. Wells


Worcester’s Dictionary

William H. Wells

It is now more than twenty years since Dr. Worcester commenced his labors as a lexicographer. He first appeared before the public as editor of “Johnson’s Dictionary, improved by Todd, and abridged by Chalmers, with Walker’s Pronouncing Dictionary combined.” His octavo abridgment of Webster’s American Dictionary was issued in 1829.

In 1830, Dr. Worcester published his “Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language.” This work was received with very general favor, and fully established the claims of the author to a place in the first rank of lexicographers.

The “Universal and Critical Dictionary” is based, in some degree, upon Todd’s edition of Johnson’s Dictionary, and Walker’s Critical Pronouncing Dictionary; but the compiler has added about 27,000 words to the number found in Johnson and Todd, and most of the definitions derived from Johnson and others have been greatly modified and improved.

It is deserving of notice, that Dr. Worcester has been most successful in presenting those branches of the subject which have been handled less satisfactorily by Dr. Webster. Webster’s definitions must still be regarded as standing unrivalled; but in treating of the orthography and pronunciation of words, the Universal and Critical Dictionary is far in advance of every other work that has hitherto appeared.

The best English standard of pronunciation, at the present time, is the Dictionary of B. H. Smart. In the pronunciation of words, Worcester agrees more nearly with Smart than with any other author; and we think his departures from Smart are almost invariably sustained by the usage of the best speakers.

With regard to words of doubtful or disputed pronunciation, the authorities for the different modes are given; so that the Diction-

ary shows in what manner the words are pronounced by the most eminent orthoëpists. Many words of this class are also accompanied with critical remarks.

No part of the work before us is deserving of higher commendation than the author’s analysis of sounds. Many of the errors in pronunciation which are so prominent in the Dictionary of Dr. Webster, have sprung legitimately from his defective view of the elementary sounds of the language. Thus, the sound of a in care, rare, etc., which is properly a distinct element, is given by Webster as identical with a in fate. The absurdity of this pronunciation may be readily shown by uttering in immediate succession the words fate, hale, care, giving to a in care the...

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