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When was the first dictionary made?

The western tradition of dictionary-making began with the Greeks when changes in the language made many words in the literature unintelligible to readers. During the Middle Ages, when Latin was the language of learning, dictionaries of Latin words were compiled. The first dictionary of English words appeared in 1604 -- Robert Cawdry's Table Alphabeticall (A table alphabeticall of hard usual English words (1604); the first English dictionary, A facsimile reproduction with an intro. by Robert A. Peters, Gainesville, FL: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1966).This work contained about 3,000 words but was so dependent upon three sources that it can rightly be called a plagiarism. Early dictionaries were generally small and defined "hard" words and were made by men in their leisure time as a hobby. John Kersey the Younger is regarded as the first professional lexicographer whose introductory work, A New English Dictionary (Menston, Yorks.: Scolar P., 1969) appeared in 1702. Kersey's accomplishments were superseded in the 1720s by Nathan Bailey's innovative work, An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (London: Printed for E. Bell, 1721). For the rest of that century, it was actually more popular than Dr. Samuel Johnson's dictionary!

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