Encyclopedia

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An encyclopedia (also spelled encyclopaedia or encyclopædia)[1] is a type of reference work – a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge.[2] Encyclopedias are divided into articles or entries, which are usually accessed alphabetically by article name.[3] Encyclopedia entries are longer and more detailed than those in most dictionaries.[4] Generally speaking, unlike dictionary entries, which focus on linguistic information about words, encyclopedia articles focus on factual information to cover the thing or concept for which the article name stands.[5][6][7][8]

Encyclopedias have existed for around 2,000 years; the oldest still in existence, Naturalis Historia, was written in ca. AD 77 by Pliny the Elder. The modern encyclopedia evolved out of dictionaries around the 17th century. Historically, some encyclopedias were contained in one volume, but some, such as the Encyclopædia Britannica or the world's largest Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americana, became huge multi-volume works. Some modern encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia, are electronic and are often freely available.

The word encyclopaedia comes from the Koine Greek ἐγκυκλοπαιδεία,[9] from Greek ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία,[10] and is transliterated enkyklios paideia, meaning "general education": enkyklios (ἐγκύκλιος), meaning "circular, recurrent, required regularly, general"[11] + paideia (παιδεία), meaning "education, rearing of a child",[12] but it was reduced to a single word due to an error[13] by copyists of Latin manuscripts. Together, the phrase literally translates as "complete instruction" or "complete knowledge".

  1. "encyclopaedia" (online). Oxford English Dictionary (OED.com), Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
  2. "Encyclopedia.". Archived from the original on 2007-08-03. Glossary of Library Terms. Riverside City College, Digital Library/Learning Resource Center. Retrieved on: November 17, 2007.
  3. Hartmann, R. R. K.; James, Gregory; Gregory James (1998). Dictionary of Lexicography. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 0-415-14143-5. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  4. Hartmann, R. R. K.; James, Gregory; Gregory James (1998). Dictionary of Lexicography. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 0-415-14143-5. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  5. Béjoint, Henri (2000). Modern Lexicography, pp. 30–31. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-829951-6
  6. Encyclopaedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 27, 2010. "An English lexicographer, H.W. Fowler, wrote in the preface to the first edition (1911) of The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English that a dictionary is concerned with the uses of words and phrases and with giving information about the things for which they stand only so far as current use of the words depends upon knowledge of those things. The emphasis in an encyclopedia is much more on the nature of the things for which the words and phrases stand."
  7. Hartmann, R. R. K.; Gregory James (1998). Dictionary of Lexicography. Routledge. p. 49. ISBN 0-415-14143-5. Retrieved July 27, 2010. "In contrast with linguistic information, encyclopedia material is more concerned with the description of objective realities than the words or phrases that refer to them. In practice, however, there is no hard and fast boundary between factual and lexical knowledge."
  8. Cowie, Anthony Paul (2009). The Oxford History of English Lexicography, Volume I. Oxford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-415-14143-5. Retrieved August 17, 2010. "An 'encyclopedia' (encyclopaedia) usually gives more information than a dictionary; it explains not only the words but also the things and concepts referred to by the words."
  9. Ἐγκυκλοπαιδεία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, at Perseus project
  10. Ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία, Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 1.10.1, at Perseus project
  11. Ἐγκύκλιος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, at Perseus project
  12. Παιδεία, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, at Perseus project
  13. According to some accounts such as the American Heritage Dictionary copyists of Latin manuscripts took this phrase to be a single Greek word, enkuklopaedia,