The Compleat Encyclopaedia of Compendious Historical Lexicons of Obscure and Archaic Vernacular and Nomenclature

Welcome to Online Selections from The Compleat Encyclopaedia of Compendious Historical Lexicons of Obscure and Archaic Vernacular and Nomenclature, researched, compiled, and edited by the lexicographers, etymologists, and philologists of Speculative Grammarian.




The editors of Speculative Grammarian are delighted to present selections of the fifty-volume lexicographic opus, The Compleat Encyclopaedia of Compendious Historical Lexicons of Obscure and Archaic Vernacular and Nomenclature, online for the first time ever.

The Compleat Encyclopaedia is a one-of-a-kind resource, compiled by literally generations of lexicographers and philologists over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is significantly more thoroughthough admittedly less up-to-datethan even the Oxford English Dictionary, its younger upstart cousin.

Originally compiled from dozens of standard dictionaries, along with hundreds of little-known and specialist lexicons of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, The Compleat Encyclopaedia was the most extensive record of the English language ever created. Unfortunately, the unimaginable cost of its creation, its unwieldy size, and its impractical price lead to the eventual demise of the original publisher, and the destruction of most of the volumes of the Encyclopaedia.

Several hundred copies of the early volumes were sold, and dozens survive around the world. Only about twenty copies each of the last five volumes were printed before the publisher was forced into foreclosure. No more than five copies of each survive to this day, and as far as we know, Speculative Grammarian has the only complete set of all fifty volumes, in its Waterloo, Iowa storage vaults.

Our lexicographic team has been working for nearly thirty years to completely digitize The Compleat Encyclopaedia and render the pronunciation guides into IPAa task begun by a lone researcher on an Apple Macintosh in 1984, and completed by a team of over fifty in 2008, using the SpecGram supercomputer, Λόγοςa nearly-petascale computing environment, featuring a 0.93-petaflop Cray XT5 system containing 11,937 compute sockets and more than 204 terabytes of memory.

Although the coverage of The Compleat Encyclopaedia is extensive, the demise of its publisher means that the definitions it includes are, in many cases, quite dated. So, we have merged the contents of The Compleat Encyclopaedia with the equally ambitious and significantly more current contents of the Wordnik project.

Terms taken from the Wordnik dictionaries are identified by the Wordnik icon: . All other terms come from The Compleat Encyclopaedia.

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