Reply from Webster

In response to my previous post (and the link I emailed them), I received the email below today.  Hopefully we’ll see “prepend” added to the unabridged dictionary sometime this decade…

Dear Bill:

Thanks for your letter.  As you may know, we enter words in our dictionaries based on their use in current printed and edited sources.  A word is only entered in our dictionaries when it meets three criteria:  widespread usage in well-read publications; established usage over a certain period of time; and an easily discernable definition. For this sense of “prepend” to be entered, then, it will need to appear in a number of well-read print sources for a good number of years.

I did a quick check of our citational files, which house upwards of 17 million citations of words in context, and while we have some evidence of this sense of “prepend,” most of it is highly technical, which does not make it a good candidate for entry into an abridged dictionary like the Online Dictionary.  It may be a candidate for entry into the unabridged _Webster’s Third New International Dictionary_, however.  We will consider it when we next revise that hefty tome.

For more information on how a word is entered into our dictionaries, visit, and if you have any further questions or comments, please contact us again.

Kory Stamper, Associate Editor
Merriam-Webster, Inc.

2 thoughts on “Reply from Webster

  1. Ben Hubbard

    While it wasn’t Mr. Mish that responded, I think it’s impressive that you got such a quick response from someone that actually read the note rather than simply using a form reply… I imagine they get many such notes, and in their business, I wouldn’t think response time to suggestions or queries would rank as a high priority. In short… I agree w/ Reed.


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