Page images












[blocks in formation]


Few things are more important in the early education of youth, than to teach them accurately the meaning of words, and few things are more difficult. If a common dictionary is taken for this purpose, and an attempt made to study the definitions which it contains, both teacher and pupil are appalled, at the very outset, with the almost hopeless task of learning in succession the meaning of some thirty or forty thousand words. But this is not necessary. The well known principle, Divide and conquer, applies here with peculiar force. Thousands of these words, by daily use in the family and in the common intercourse of life, are better understood by every intelligent child of eight or ten years of age, than they can be from any mere definition. For what can make plainer to such a child the meaning of the words, tree, horse, chair, table, run, give, take, see, hear, love, hate, and the like. This class of words is very large, and it is needless to occupy the time, and burden the memory of the pupil, with learning definitions of them.

In addition to this, thousands of the most difficult words, including the technical and scientific, had better be reserved till the mind is more developed and fitted to comprehend them, and till the comparatively easy words needed in defining them, are well understood. For, otherwise, from getting only a vague and imperfect notion of the meaning of such words, there will

be danger that the habit will be formed of not getting the meaning of any thoroughly.

Between these two great classes there is another, to which the attention of the learner in studying definitions should first be directed; and when he is well acquainted with it, the attainment of the higher class will not be found difficult. It is principally words of this middle range which the authors have here introduced. Those of a higher class belong to a succeeding volume.

Another peculiarity of this work consists in its definitions and illustrations. In the definitions the authors have aimed at simplicity and clearness, avoiding what they conceive to be a great defect, the defining of one word by another, often still more difficult, and then the defining of this latter one by the very word which it had been used to define. For example, as when the scholar is told that to abandon means to forsake, to desert; and that to forsake is to abandon, to desert; and that to desert is to abandon, to forsake. By going through this circle, unless the scholar happens to know already the meaning of some one or more of these words, what additional knowledge can he obtain, while he is continually led to think that certain words are synonymous, which often vary widely in their significations when applied to different subjects. This evil is one of no small magnitude, and ought to be guarded against most carefully by those concerned in the education of youth.

And even when the definitions have been made as simple as possible, the proper meaning and use of most words can be taught effectually only by illustrative examples. This is the very way, indeed, in which children, in the common intercourse of life, learn their mother tongue; and it seems essential, therefore, that this should be one of the striking features of a dic

tionary for schools and families. In this respect, it is believed, the following work has peculiar claims upon the attention of teachers and parents. The illustrations have been prepared with great labor, and in making them it has been the design of the authors, while showing the proper meaning and use of words, to communicate valuable knowledge, to cultivate a correct taste, and to impress moral truth. Historical facts and dates, references to the Sacred Scriptures, with prudential maxims and precepts adapted to the young, pervade the whole. It is recommended to require of the learner to give additional illustrations; as this will serve both to fix more deeply in his mind the true power of the word, and to make him more ready in the correct use of language.

It will be seen, too, that a work thus constructed, while it best answers the design of such a dictionary, may be used advantageously for occasional exercises in reading. It will be, also, a valuable help to the pupil, by furnishing models in that kind of composition, becoming prevalent in many schools, which consists in forming sentences to contain particular words given out by the teacher.

For the sake of conciseness and method, words of the same family, though of different parts of speech, are brought together under that definition of one of them to which they properly belong, and are printed in italics. For instance, under the word "apprehend" will be found the words apprehension and apprehensive.

Of some words, those significations which are rarely met with, are omitted.

In the latter part of the work, as an exercise for the pupil, words are occasionally defined by other words which had themselves already been fully defined.

« PreviousContinue »