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Will you find the word webster in the Concise Oxford Dictionary?

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Answer: yes

A female weaver is a webster.

However, you will not find the dictionary-name Webster's. According to Dennis Baron in his essay McLanguage Meets the Dictionary :

"The name Webster's was the subject of a bitter dispute in the early 20th century with the courts ruling that G. & C. Merriam, the lineal publishing descendants of Noah Webster's dictionaries, did not have exclusive rights to the name.

Webster's in everyday English has been synonymous with dictionary since Noah Webster hit it big in 1828, but perhaps because they don't want to get embroiled in further litigation, dictionaries don't record that generic meaning of the name."


Interesting that "webster" should signify a male weaver, since the suffix "-ster" was coined to denote female occupations. The only vestige of this coinage in English is "spinster"-not in the sense of an old, unmarried woman, but a woman who spins thread on a spinning wheel. The suffix eventually lost its uniquely feminine connotation, and so the suffix "-ess" came into use. I would check the eymology of "webster" anyway to comfirm the accuracy ot the word's gender.

[Mootguy: Guess what - I was wrong, wrong, wrong. A webster is a FEMALE weaver. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll post your response and make the change to the web page.]

Webster's is only synonymous with dictionary in North American and Canadian everyday-English. In Australian-asian and British English the term is completely meaningless (unless of course you are, or know, a female weaver).

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