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An Annotated Survey of English Etymological Dictionaries and Glossaries Anatoly Liberman In 1617 the first etymological dictionary of English (Minsheu) was published. Today's scholar will find several shelves of dictionaries and glossaries expounding the origins of English words. Those published before the discovery of the comparative method are strong on guesswork and weak on insights, but they should not be dismissed out of hand. Some ties between English and Latin, and between English and French, were established correctly by the first etymologists. Many Germanic cognates of English words were also identified long ago. Even the emphasis on Hebrew typical of 17th- and 18th-century linguistics can be put to use when it comes to Wanderwörter and the roots presumably shared by Indo-European and Semitic. But of special interest are such dictionaries to the students of the history of ideas. It is regrettable that no one has thought of writing an English counterpart of Arthur Schmidt's most useful book, Zum Fortschritt der etymologischen Erkenntnis des Deutschen in Wörterbüchern des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. (Germanische Studien 49. Berlin: Emil Ebering, 1927.) Language enthusiasts who today want to satisfy their curiosity about the derivation of English words do not need an etymological dictionary : any explanatory dictionary of English will provide them with the necessary information, but specialists attempting to trace the growth of knowledge will enjoy leafing through the many books with the generic title Dictionary of Word Origins. There is only one hitch: it is far from easy to leaf through them! The field of English lexicography has been surveyed more than once, and there are excellent studies of Germanic and English etymological dictionaries, but a bibliography like the present one does not exist, and some of these books are hard 22Anatoly Liberman to get. Ever since I began working on a new etymological dictionary of English (a kind of "English Feist" or "English Vasmer," with a full bibliographical analysis of every word) , I have been trying to obtain copies of the different editions of all the dictionaries written by my predecessors . It turned out to be a difficult task. Complete bibliographies belong to the realm of utopia, and without doubt I missed some titles and will be grateful for corrections and advice. Yet, however imperfect this survey may be, I hope it has some merit. The libraries of the University of Minnesota now own all the books described below, and I have used them many times, so my evidence is trustworthy. The lacunae in my bibliography cannot be too numerous or too important. In any case, I waited with this survey until I received all the dictionaries of whose existence I am aware, with the sole exception ofJ. Harrison, The Etymological Enchiridion ....1 Preston: (Printed for the author by Addison, etc., 1923.) One of the difficulties I encountered is inherent in the genre of etymological lexicography: it is not always clear which books should be labeled etymological dictionaries. Titles are a poor guide to a bibliographer . In the 19th century, etymology was an attractive component of explanatory dictionaries, and their authors never forgot to call their prospective buyers' attention to the fact that they had traced every word to its distant sources. Sometimes, instead of saying "dictionaries with etymologies," they slyly said "etymological dictionaries." Nothing could be more misleading. Even Arthur Kennedy occasionally fell into this trap and classified some such dictionaries as etymological (see his monumental work A Bibliography ofWritings on theEnglish Languagefrom the Beginning ofPrinting to the End of 1922. [Cambridge & New Haven: Harvard UP, Yale UP, 1927] ) . I am aware of seven such misnomers:John Jamieson, An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language .... (Edinburgh : Printed for Archibald Constable and Company, etc., 1818 [and all the subsequent editions of this dictionary] ) ; William Grimshaw, An EtymologicalDictionary; or, Analysis ofthe English Language: Containing the Radicah and Definitions of Words Derivedfrom the Greek, Latin, and French Languages. (Philadelphia, PA: Printed for the author by Lydia R. Baily, 1821 [2d ed., 1826, 3d ed., 1848]); James Donald (ed.), Chambers' Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. (London and Edinburgh: 1I also wonder whether Robert Sheppard's English Word-Lore; a Short Dictionary ofDerivations ... (Madras: T. Gopaul Naidu) exists. No...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 21-96
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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