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How do words get into the dictionary?
Feb 01, 2013
To earn a place in the dictionary, a word has to prove that the community at large accepts it. That is to say, it has to turn up a number of times in a number of different contexts over a period of time.
In the days of Dr Johnson, famous for his dictionary of the English language, dictionary editors amassed evidence of the general use of words by writing up a card for each instance of the word in the books they were reading. If you ended up with a lot of cards for one word then you could say that it was obviously in use. These days editors still rely mainly on reading – books, newspapers, the internet – and listening – radio, TV, people chatting – to be alerted to the existence of a word. The dictionary also has many correspondents who point out words and usages that they think the dictionary ought to record.
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