In linguistics, the lexicon is the total stock of words and word elements that carry meaning. Lexicon is from Greek lexikon (biblion) meaning “word(book),” ultimately going back to legein, “to speak.” Definitions of lexicon. a reference book containing an alphabetical list of words with information about them.
Merriam Webster defines lexicon as “the vocabulary of a language, an individual speaker or group of speakers, or a subject”. So a lexicon is a collection of words used by people in a certain country and/or in a specific profession, hobby, or area of interest. For example, train collectors have a lexicon of words they use that someone not into train collecting wouldn’t necessarily understand.
A lexicon can include colloquialisms (e.g., using the word “podunk” to mean a really small town), idioms (e.g., using the phrase “piece of cake” to mean that something is extremely easy), jargon (e.g., a “summons” means a court-issued request to appear at a trial in legal jargon), or slang (e.g., swear words or using the word “sweet” to mean that something is cool.
The biggest sample of the English lexicon is the largest dictionary of the English-language, the Oxford English Dictionary. In the Oxford English dictionary, there are about 600,000-words that are defined in the English language.
What Is The Difference Between a Lexicon and a Dictionary?
Lexicon is a less official type of a dictionary. The dictionary tends to encompass all of language, or at least the language that is most commonly used. There are many types of lexicon: dictionary, glossary, terminology, thesaurus, vocabulary, and wordbook.
Vocabulary of certain professions, such as:
- Construction Workers
- Doctors and Nurses
- Athletes (basketball players have a different lexicon than football players or cross country skiers)
Vocabulary of different areas of interest or hobbies, such as:
- Stamp Collectors
- Bird Watchers
Certain groups of people, such as:
- Different Age Groups (toddlers vs than adolescents)
- Different Generations (generation X has a different vocabulary than millennials or baby boomers)
What is an example of common lexicon in a sentence? The vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge.
- Chocolate equals sin in most people’s lexicon.
- In our lexicon, boring is even worse than bad.
- Performance with the larger lexicon showed some deterioration.
Some writers have their own literary lexicon. For example, the author J.R.R. Tolkien was a master of languages. He could speak 35 different languages, including Middle English, Lithuanian, and Greek. Additionally, Tolkien invented many different languages for his Lord of the Rings trilogy (including Dwarf, Orc, and Hobbit), but is perhaps most famous for inventing 15 different dialects of Elvish, including Quenya. There are dictionaries devoted to Elvish and many fans of Tolkien’s books can speak it.
Another author who has their own lexicon is William Shakespeare. He invented over 1,700 words, such as elbow (as a verb), blushing, and lustrous. Many of these words have found their way into the modern English lexicon. There are also dictionaries devoted to Shakespeare’s lexicon.
And recently, David Peterson, author of The Art of Language Invention, had made over a dozen languages for various professional works. He created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones, and Castithan, Irathent, and, Indojisnen for Defiance, among others.
So, what exactly does a lexicographer do?
Merriam-Webster defines a lexicographer as “an author or editor of a dictionary”. Noah Webster is a famous lexicographer and he compiled the American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. He is most well known for distinguishing American English from British English, believing that word usage should come from the way we speak, not from arbitrary rules.
Related: English Through the Ages
- Researches and recognizes new words used in everyday conversation
- Define new words in clear, concise language
- Layout the various meanings and usages for existing words
- Determine which meanings are most used and which meanings are secondary
- Edit and proofread existing definitions
- Make sure that each definition meets the standards set at the start
Lexicographers working on online dictionaries will have additional responsibilities such as working with freelancers and giving input on web design.
How many words are added to the dictionary each year?
Merriam-Webster Added 370 New Words to the Dictionary for September 2022, from ‘adorkable’ to ‘janky’ to ‘yeet. As well as a range of technology-related terms, including a playful retronym that contrasts with the ubiquitous smartphone. Dumbphone : a cell phone that does not include advanced software features (such as email or an internet browser) typically found on smartphones
The Oxford English Dictionary is updated on a quarterly basis, and the updates make up the Third Edition of the OED. The material added to the dictionary includes revised versions of existing entries (which replace the older versions), and new words and senses both within the alphabetical sequence of revised entries and also across the whole A to Z range. The latest update to the Oxford English Dictionary includes over 1,400 fully revised and updated entries, and over 700 new words, phrases, and senses appear for the first time, including deepfake, antigram, and groomzilla.