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From lexico- (prefix meaning ‘speech; words’) +‎ -graphy (suffix meaning ‘something written about a specified subject’).[1]



lexicography (countable and uncountable, plural lexicographies)

  1. (uncountable) The art or craft of compiling, writing, and editing dictionaries.
    • 1735 March 5, “Craftsman, Feb. 22 [Julian calendar]. Nº 451.”, in Sylvanus Urban [pseudonym; Edward Cave], editor, The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, volume V, London: [] Edward Cave, [], published February 1735, →OCLC, page 85, column 1:
      [T]here are ſeveral Species of Writing, in which a proper Degree of Hebetude is abſolutely neceſſary, as well as in other profeſſions; such as Lexicography, Index-making, and the like; [...]
    • 1755 April 15, Samuel Johnson, “Preface”, in A Dictionary of the English Language: [] , volumes I (A–K), London: [] J[ohn] and P[aul] Knapton;  [], →OCLC:
      And ſuch is the fate of hapleſs lexicography, that not only darkneſs, but light, impedes and diſtreſſes it; things may be not only too little, but too much known, to be happily illuſtrated.
    • 1795 December 22, [John Philpot] Curran (defence counsel), “612. Trial of James Weldon for High Treason, []”, in Thomas Jones Howell, editor, Cobbett’s Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanors [], volume XXVI, London: [] Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown; [et al.], published 1819, →OCLC, column 267:
      Let me warn you, therefore, against that fallacious lexicography which forms new words, that undergoing the examination of political slander or intemperate zeal, are considered as having a known acception.—What is the word?—A word that should be discarded, when it is sought to affix to it another meaning than that which it bears in the cases where it is used.
    • 1802, Henry Neuman, “Preface”, in A New Dictionary of the Spanish and English Languages; [] In Two Parts, 1st part (The Spanish before the English), London: [] Vernor and Hood, [], →OCLC:
      [...] I have not only availed myſelf of all the Aſſiſtance which more ancient Sources of Spaniſh Lexicography could afford, but alſo had particular Recourſe to the Dictionary published at Madrid in 1797 and 1798, [...]
    • 1831, Ying Hing Soo, “Book Second”, in Charles Fried. Neumann [i.e., Karl Friedrich Neumann], transl., History of the Pirates who Infested the China Sea, from 1807 to 1810. [], London: [] Oriental Translation Fund, [], →OCLC, footnote, page 54:
      There exist different forms of this character, but I think we should not presume to make an etymology of a Chinese character without being authorized by the Shwǒ wǎn, the oldest and most genuine source of Chinese lexicography.
    • 1999, A[nthony] P[aul] Cowie, “The Role of the Computer in Learner Lexicography”, in English Dictionaries for Foreign Learners: A History, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Clarendon Press, →ISBN, section 4.1 (Introduction), page 118:
      Without doubt, the most important single development in learner lexicography from the mid-1970s onwards has been the steadily increasing involvement of the computer at all stages of the dictionary-making process, from data gathering and analysis at one end, to compilation, production, and revision at the other.
    • 2013, Amy Chi, “Researching Pedagogical Lexicography”, in Howard Jackson, editor, The Bloomsbury Companion to Lexicography (Bloomsbury Companions), London, New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury Academic, Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, page 165:
      A dictionary, as an art and craft of lexicography, has always been closely associated with the notion of pedagogy.
  2. (uncountable, linguistics) The scholarly discipline of analysing and describing the semantic, syntagmatic and paradigmatic relationships within the lexicon (vocabulary) of a language and developing theories of dictionary components and structures linking the data in dictionaries.
    • 1828, Moses Stuart, “Changes of Consonants”, in A Grammar of the Hebrew Language, 3rd edition, Andover, Mass.: Flagg & Gould, →OCLC, part II (Changes and Peculiarities of Consonants and Verbs), § 105, page 51:
      But changes of this nature belong to lexicography, as they do not affect the grammatical forms of words.
    • 1840, Geo. Benedict Winer [i.e., Georg Benedikt Winer], “§ 4. Grammatical Character of the N.T. Diction.”, in J. H Agnew, O. G. Ebbeke, transl., A Grammar of the Idioms of the Greek Language of the New Testament, Philadelphia, Pa.: Herman Hooker, [], →OCLC, part I, page 37:
      What the history of language in general teaches, that in course of time, there is less change in form than signification, in grammar than lexicography, is true of the Greek.
    • 1845 February, Wilhelm Freund, “Article IV. Principles of Latin Lexicography.”, in T[heodore] D[wight] Woolsey, transl., edited by B[ela] B[ates] Edwards and E[dwards] A[masa] Park, Bibliotheca Sacra and Theological Review, volume II, number V, New York, N.Y., London: Wiley & Putnam; Andover, Mass.: Allen, Morrill and Wardwell, →OCLC, section I (Of the Idea and Elements of Latin Lexicography), § 1, page 80:
      If Lexicography in general is that science whose task it is to set forth the nature of every single word of a language through all the periods of its existence, it is the task of Latin lexicography in particular to set forth the nature of every single word of the Latin language, as it makes itself known in all the periods of the existence of that language; or more succinctly expressed, it is the object of Latin lexicography to give the history of every single word of the Latin language.
    • 1911 December 13, C. J. Ball, “A Study in Biblical Philology”, in Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology, volume XXXIII, number CCXLIX, London: Society of Biblical Archaeology, →OCLC, page 13:
      [T]he philologist may well refuse to accept a body of triliteral roots, developed on a highly artificial and uniform plan, as the ultimate fact in Semitic lexicography.
    • 2002, Howard Jackson, “Criticising Dictionaries”, in Lexicography: An Introduction, London, New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 173:
      Academic lexicography, or 'metalexicography', as pursued in university departments of English or Linguistics, is concerned not primarily with the compiling of dictionaries – though academics may be involved in this, as consultants, for example – but with researching and teaching about the whole business of making dictionaries: their history, their typology, their structures, their users, and so on [...].
  3. (countable) A dictionary, a lexicon, a wordbook.
    • 1828 October, Joseph Story, Associate Judge of the Supreme Court, William P. Mason (reporter), “United States vs. an Open Boat and Lading”, in Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of the United States, for the First Circuit, volume V, Boston, Mass.: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins, published 1831, →OCLC, page 134:
      There can be no doubt, that in a general sense a boat is a vessel, for it is "a vehicle in which men or goods are carried on the water," which is one of the definitions of a vessel given in our lexicographies; [...]
    • 1855 March, “A Bag of Wind”, in Putnam’s Monthly. A Magazine of Literature, Science, and Art, volume V, number XXVII, New York, N.Y.: Dix & Edwards, []; London: Sampson Low, Son & Co., →OCLC, page 251, column 1:
      "Air put in motion" is the brief description of the wind in lexicographies; but what a contrast in quality according to its direction; [...]
    • 1998, Christopher Leigh Connery, “Textual Authority and Textual Practice”, in The Empire of the Text: Writing and Authority in Early Imperial China, Lanham, Md., Oxford, Oxfordshire: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, →ISBN, page 37:
      The earliest examples of dictionaries or lexicographies in nearly any culture serve more to regularize and standardize the lexicon than to list or inventory it, and as such would tend to take as their object textual rather than spoken language.

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ Compare “lexicography, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1902; “lexicography, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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