Girish Mahajan (Editor)

A Latin Dictionary

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Media type  Print (hardcover)
ISBN  978-0-19-864201-5
Author  Charlton Thomas Lewis
Page count  2,019
OCLC  1063568
Pages  2019
Originally published  1879
Original language  English
Country  United States of America
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Original title  Harpers' Latin Dictionary: A New Latin Dictionary Founded on the Translation of Freund's Latin-German Lexicon edited by E.A. Andrews
Text  A Latin Dictionary Founded on Andrews' Edition of Freund's Latin Dictionary at Wikisource
Similar  Charlton Thomas Lewis books, Latin books

Reading a latin dictionary

A Latin Dictionary (or Harpers' Latin Dictionary, often referred to as Lewis and Short or L&S) is a popular English-language lexicographical work of the Latin language, published by Harper and Brothers of New York in 1879 and printed simultaneously in the United Kingdom by Oxford University Press.



The work is usually referred to as Lewis and Short after the names of its editors, Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. It was derived from the 1850 English translation by Ethan Allen Andrews of an earlier Latin-German dictionary, Wörterbuch der Lateinischen Sprache, by the German philologist Wilhelm Freund, in turn based on I.J.G. Scheller’s Latin–German dictionary of 1783. The Andrews translation was partially revised by Freund himself, then by Henry Drisler, and was finally edited by Short and Lewis.

The division of labour between the two editors was remarkably unequal. Short, a very thorough but slow worker, produced material for the letters A through C, but B and C were lost by Harpers, meaning that his work now only appears in the letter A (216 pages), while Lewis was solely responsible for the entries beginning with the letters B through Z (1803 pages), who worked on his spare time from his law practice. In 1890 Lewis published a heavily abridged version the dictionary, entitled An Elementary Latin Dictionary, for the use of students. Sometimes called the Elementary Lewis, it is still in print today.

The adoption of the book by Oxford University Press was the result of the failure of its own project to create a new Latin-English dictionary in 1875. Henry Nettleship and John Mayor had been commissioned to produce a new Latin dictionary based on a fresh reading of the sources, but after Mayor withdrew from the project, Nettleship was unable to complete it on his own; he eventually published his research as notes on Lewis and Short. While the Press had earlier published John Riddle’s 1835 translation of Scheller’s Latin–German dictionary, this was a much more expensive book. The Press thus adopted Harpers' Latin Dictionary as a stopgap measure, paying Harper and Brothers 10 per cent royalties. Harper and Brothers sold its rights to the American Book Company in 1899, shortly before its bankruptcy.

From the time of its publication, many scholars have criticized the dictionary for its errors and inconsistencies. Because of various circumstances, however, no replacement was attempted until 1933, with the Oxford Latin Dictionary, which was completed in 1983.

The dictionary's full text is available on-line from the Perseus Project. Lewis and Short is also available for offline consultation, by means of various applications.

Comparison with other dictionaries

Among classicists, Lewis and Short has been largely superseded by the Oxford Latin Dictionary, called the OLD for short. Lewis and Short incorporated material from existing Latin dictionaries; the OLD, by contrast, started from scratch, following procedures similar to those of the well-regarded Oxford English Dictionary. Thanks to the increased availability of modern editions, the OLD editors had access to a larger variety of classical works. Although classicists still consult Lewis and Short, they tend to prefer the OLD.

On the other hand, Lewis and Short remains a standard reference work for medievalists, renaissance specialists, and early modernists, as the dictionary covers Late and Medieval Latin, if somewhat inconsistently. The OLD, when used on its own, rarely meets their needs, since it was decided early in the OLD's planning that the work would not encompass works written later than AD 200. A few exceptions were made for especially important texts from the late classical period, such as Augustine's De Civitate Dei, but for periods later than that the OLD is considerably less useful. The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources supplements the OLD for medieval usage of Latin words.

In cases where Lewis and Short do not answer a medieval usage question, J. F. Niermeyer's Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus often supplies an answer. The Lexicon Minus was completed in 1976 by C. van de Kieft after Niermeyer's death, and has since become a standard reference work. More recent editions of the Lexicon Minus have corrections and expansions; also, in later editions all words are defined in English, French and German, making it of greater international importance than Lewis and Short. The Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis completed in 1678 by Charles du Fresne (commonly referred to as Du Cange after the author's title, the Sieur du Cange) is now less frequently used, as Niermeyer's Lexicon Minus incorporates much of its information.

On occasion people confuse Lewis and Short (or L&S) with Liddell and Scott, its Greek counterpart, entitled A Greek–English Lexicon. The 1945 and later editions of Liddell and Scott are commonly referred to by the abbreviation LSJ after the names of its editors Liddell, Scott and the editor of the 1945 revision, Jones.


A Latin Dictionary Wikipedia

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