In his 1721 book An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, Nathan Bailey took a few shortcuts with his definitions. One striking example is his treatment of the word butter, which he glossed as “a Food well known.”
This was a not uncommon manner of defining common words at the time. Many of the earliest English dictionaries focused mainly on defining “hard words” and did not expend much effort on explaining the meaning of words that most people would be likely to know.
No one appears to have approached the levels of sloth in this regard that were reached by Benjamin Norton Defoe, who, in his 1735 A New English Dictionary, managed to define no fewer than 68 headwords as “well known.” Laugh and sneeze are both defined by Defoe simply as “an action well known”; bull, cow, horse, and ox are all defined as “a Beast well known”; and tree is given the simplest definition of all: “a thing well known.”