Word Origin & History
1530s, "course of construction," thought to be a false reading by L. authors of Gk. enkyklios paideia taken as "general education," but lit. "training in a circle," the essentials of a liberal education, from enkyklios "circular," also "general" (from en- "in" + kyklos "circle") + paideia "education,
child-rearing," from pais (gen. paidos) "child" (see pedo-
). Modern sense of "reference work arranged alphabetically" is from 1640s, often applied specifically to the French "Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, des Arts, et des Métiers" (1751-65).
. The Latin spelling survives as a variant because many of the most prominent ones (e.g. Britannica) have Latin names.