Blount's Dictionary

Most of Shakespeare's plays were written before there were any English dictionaries at all. In the late 1500s scholars and schoolteachers began to discuss the fact that our vast, ever changing language was in need of a rulebook. Thus, the first English dictionaries began to appear. This page is taken from the preface of a 17th century English Dictionary. The dictionary was compiled by the lexicographer Thomas Blount, and was published in 1656, just 43 years after the publication of the very first monolingual English dictionary.

Blount's words

Here Blount discusses the subject of unfamiliar terms in the English language. He explains that English cities are resounding with new words: the cook talks of omelets, and ragouts, the vintner serves coffa and chocolate, and the tailor fashions Gippons from drap-de-berry. And the British public, explains Blount, adore novelty: 'they forge new phrases, and that which is newest is best liked'. As a result of this jumble, Blount believes 'few, without the help of a Dictionary, would be able to understand our ordinary English books.'