Welcome to Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary, a word-a-day dictionary from Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (London: Printed by W. Strahan for J. and P. Knapton, [1755]), one of the first dictionaries to document the daily working life of the English language.

In celebration of the three hundredth anniversary of Johnson’s birth in 1709, a definition from the first edition of the dictionary will be posted each day for readers’ lexiconic delight, beginning on January 1, 2009. Words will be taken from the annotated proof copy of the first edition, extra-illustrated with Johnson’s and his helpers’ manuscript corrections, which is held in the collections of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

To celebrate Johnson’s tercentenary, the Beinecke Library will be offering an exhibition on the writing of Boswell’s Life of Johnson in September – December, 2009, drawing on the Beinecke’s Boswell Family Papers collection. As a contribution to the tercentenary festivities, and in support of scholarship on Johnson and Boswell, the Beinecke will be scanning the entire James Boswell segment of the Boswell Family Papers and making the collection available in its Digital Images and Collections. Further information on the Boswell Family Papers can be found in the finding aid for the collection.

If you should have any questions, please contact Kathryn James, the Beinecke Library’s Assistant Curator for Early Modern Books and Manuscripts & the Osborn Collection, at

13 Responses to “Welcome to Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary”

  1. 1 Elisa Berger January 10, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Please, can I get on a daily mailing of your word a day? Samuel Johnson’s life and work is fascinating – and heroic to a word lover like me.

  2. 2 podictionary February 6, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    People who want to receive daily emails but who don’t want to figure out RSS can use a service like

  3. 3 Jason Cleverly March 28, 2009 at 8:13 am

    I love the images of the correction notes(?) i would like to be able to use them in a project at the Johnson House in London that I am involved in Called the House of Words in June, please can I get higher res versions, and if so would I be able use them as part of a larger work?

    Best wishes

    Jason Cleverly
    Course leader BA Contemporary Crafts
    University College Falmouth
    United Kingdom

  4. 6 Erich Gockel July 18, 2009 at 9:52 am

    for there’s nothing better than a word that speaks to you to evoke your interest.

  5. 7 Vincent Sumpter March 27, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Hello, I’ve been given a puzzling question to anwer to do with Dr Johnson’s Dictionary. Does anyone out there know a word beginning with “w” in his dictionary that means “to diminish in size”? The hint for the word was “shrunk”. It isn’t a trick question – there is definitely a word in his dictionary that answers the question. I’ve tried everything but am getting knowhere. Thanks – all ideas welcome.

  6. 9 Tapender May 10, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Great man of english dictionary

  1. 1 A word a day, the Doctor’s way… « (Roughly) Daily Trackback on January 14, 2009 at 9:11 am
  2. 2 Terminologia etc. » » Dr Johnson Trackback on September 18, 2009 at 9:45 am
  3. 3 save the words again « Baroque in Hackney Trackback on September 26, 2009 at 8:48 am
  4. 4 Harmless Drudge Trackback on February 4, 2010 at 3:43 am

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