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I'm curious to know: what is the largest dictionary in the world? The English and Malgache Wiktionaries are surely not far off with 3.8M and 3.5M entries but I found a blog post talking about a Chinese-Korean dictionary with nearly half a million entries composed of 55,000 different characters. Is there something larger?

Just like with cities there are various possible metrics. But metrics for dictionaries are much less fluid than for cities. I'm mainly thinking about number of entries (i.e. words) but it'd also be fun to know about the physically largest dictionary.

(I answered the question myself once I found some more information but I'd still like to see an answer with authoritative sources.)

  • 600,000 words, not counting word senses. – prash Nov 27 '14 at 21:43
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    I've heard of a Dutch dictionary that's much bigger than the OED ... – hippietrail Nov 28 '14 at 14:18
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    How are you measuring size? Even if two dictionaries have the same number of total entries, one can be much, much bigger than the other―at least if we're measuring, say, pages or shelf space in meters. – snailplane Nov 29 '14 at 2:39
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First of all, I assume that with “largest dictionary” you mean the dictionary with the largest number of entries (lemmas), not the one that fills the largest number of pages. In this form, the question probably cannot be answered, given the fact that different languages have different systems of lemmatisation.

To begin with, Wiktionary includes proper nouns, while traditional dictionaries exclude proper nouns. The Dutch WNT covers texts down to 1921 and has 430000 entries. The second edition of the OED (1989) has 291000 entries, but the current on-line version claims to have 600000 words.

Just to problematize the question I would like to mention Arabic, a language considered to have a very large vocabulary. Arabic dictionaries are arranged according to roots. The numerous verbal derivatives of any given root are all counted as a single lemma, while the singular nouns derived from a given root are treated as separate lemmas. The largest dictionary of Classical Arabic, the Tāj al-ʻarūs, is said to contain 120000 “words”. This looks a lot less than the WNT and the OED. However, the Tāj was compiled in the 18th century, the other two in the 20th; the vocabularies of Dutch and English have obviously increased enormously in the last two centuries. Moreover, the Tāj contains in principle only the words found in the Qur’an (not many) and in the early Arabic poets, so let’s say words attested in texts from before about 700 AD. I doubt whether there are many other languages that clock up such a big number by such an early date.

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    The claims about the Dutch dictionary are spurious since both separate words and any of their compounded versions are classed as separate entries. This bumps up the entry count without actually adding new meanings. This myth about the actual size of the WDNT has been perpetuated for years. – Roger May 7 '17 at 6:22
  • Even the shorter OED claims to have 600000 words now. Does that mean the Shorter OED is pretty much OED without the historical data? – Spero Feb 21 '18 at 8:05
  • @Spero. So it seems. – fdb Feb 21 '18 at 10:04
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Terminology is important. When I started looking for "largest" instead of "biggest" I immediately bumped into some useful pages, but nothing authoritative:

worldslargestdictionary.com claims that the Dutch dictionary Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal is the largest monolingual dictionary, without any reference. Wikipedia states the same, also without a reference. Next are the Oxford English Dictionary and the Deutsches Wörterbuch.

worldslargestdictionary.com claims that Logos.it is the largest multilingual dictionary with 8 million words.

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Svenska Akademiens ordbok is an ongoing work that started in the late 19th century. It lists Swedish words from around 1520 until today. That covers modern and current Swedish. On the Swedish Academy's homepage, SAOB is said to be comparable to WNT, OED and DW (though I do not know if they are referring to size, quality or both). To date it has 36 volumes and covers A through UTSUDDA. I haven't been able to find any statistics beyond what I've given here, but I have sent e-mail to the editor, requesting further information.

http://www.saob.se/ (This page is in Swedish)

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