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Merriam-Webster FAQ

What is Merriam-Webster?

Merriam-Webster is America's foremost publisher of language-related reference works. The company publishes a diverse array of print and electronic products, including Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition—America's best-selling desk dictionary—and Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.

Does Merriam-Webster have any connection to Noah Webster?

Merriam-Webster can be considered the direct lexicographical heir of Noah Webster. In 1843, the company bought the rights to the 1841 edition of Webster's magnum opus, An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged. At the same time, they secured the rights to create revised editions of the work. Since that time, Merriam-Webster editors have carried forward Noah Webster's work, creating some of the most widely used and respected dictionaries and reference books in the world. For more information, see Noah Webster and America's First Dictionary and From Noah Webster to Merriam-Webster: A Timeline.

When was Merriam-Webster founded?

In 1831, brothers George and Charles Merriam opened a printing and bookselling operation in Springfield, Massachusetts which they named G. & C. Merriam Co. The company, which was renamed Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, in 1982, has been in continuous operation since that time. For more information on the history of Merriam-Webster, see Merriam-Webster Continues Noah Webster's Legacy and Merriam-Webster's Ongoing Commitment.

How long has Merriam-Webster been publishing dictionaries?

The first Merriam-Webster dictionary was issued on September 24, 1847. It cost $6.00 per copy and earned the praise of such notable figures as President James K. Polk and General Zachary Taylor.

Which dictionary is used on Merriam-Webster Online?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary is based on the print version of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. The online dictionary includes the main A-Z listing of the Collegiate Dictionary, as well as the Abbreviations, Foreign Words and Phrases, Biographical Names, and Geographical Names sections of that book. It also includes 1,000 illustrations and 25 tables. Selected sections of the print Collegiate Dictionary, notably the Signs and Symbols section, are omitted from the online Collegiate Dictionary because they include special characters and symbols that cannot readily be reproduced in HTML.

Are all Webster's dictionaries alike?

No. After Noah Webster's death in 1843 and throughout the 19th century, Merriam-Webster produced the finest American dictionaries, building the reputation of the name "Webster's" to a point where it became a byword for quality dictionaries. But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, legal difficulties concerning the copyright and trademark of the name Webster arose, and eventually many different publishers—some rather unscrupulous—began putting dictionaries on the market under the Webster's name.

The net effect of the proliferation of Webster dictionaries is a reference-book marketplace in which consumers are unaware of or confused about what differentiates one Webster from another. In an attempt to draw attention to the issue, in 1982 our company changed its name from G. & C. Merriam Company to Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. In 1991, Merriam-Webster reinforced that move by introducing the phrase Not just Webster. Merriam-Webster™ to further identify and distinguish its products and to place greater emphasis on a tradition of quality Dictionary-making that we feel is uniquely ours.

Other publishers may use the name Webster, but only 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.

How can I contact Merriam-Webster with questions about their products?

You can e-mail Merriam-Webster. Or you can send a fax to the attention of the Sales Department at: (413) 731-5979. Or you can write to us the old-fashioned way at:

Merriam-Webster, Inc.
47 Federal Street
P.O. Box 281
Springfield, MA 01102