According to Jack Lynch, an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers, the earliest dictionaries only contained the hard words:
Johnson’s Dictionary contains many of these hard words, and for word lovers they can be delightful. There you’ll find nidification, meaning “the act of building nests,” and gemelliparous, “bearing twins.” Scrabble players will delight in words like ophiophagous (“Serpent-eating”), galericulate (“Covered as with a hat”), or decacuminated (“Having the top cut off”). But Johnson was not entirely comfortable with them: “I am not always certain,” he said, “that they are read in any book but the works of lexicographers” (preface, pp. 8788). He was right. Consider the word naulage, which appears in nearly a hundred books in the eighteenth century alone. The problem is that every one of those books is a dictionary. They all tell us that naulage means the fee paid to carry freight by sea, but there’s no indication the word was ever used even by those paid to carry freight by sea.
The dictionaries were also notorious for stealing definitions from one another.
(Hat tip: Frank Wilson)
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