ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Noah Webster’s Influence on American Language

Updated on September 30, 2017

Welcome guest writer, Susan Bates. Enjoy her piece and learn more about her at the end of the article.


It is difficult to understate the immense impact that Noah Webster has had on American culture. He has been called an American Hero (“Noah Webster House,” n.d.) and a forgotten founding father (Sheidlower, 2011). These appellations are fitting because every time someone in the United States writes a paragraph, Noah Webster’s influence is seen.



Noah Webster was born shortly before the American Revolution on October16, 1758 to an average colonial family in Hartford, Connecticut. His father worked as a weaver and a farmer. Noah Webster had five siblings.

The only one of the Webster children to receive an education beyond grammar school was Noah. He matriculated to Yale University just before his sixteenth birthday. He graduated in 1778. Later, he returned to Yale to study law. His law degree was conferred in 1822.

In 1789, Noah Webster married Rebecca Greenleaf. They were married for 54 years. They had eight children, 6 daughters and 2 sons.


Language Books

During his lifetime, Webster worked as a teacher, a lawyer, and a writer. In addition, he helped to establish Amherst College. His real passion, however, seemed to be writing, especially as it related to the differentiating of American English language from the British language.

Even though the United States had gained its independence from Britain, students continued to use textbooks that were created in England. This bothered Webster. He believed American students should have unique textbooks. He wanted students to learn to pronounce and spell words using a distinctly American style. Therefore, he wrote his own textbook. The textbook he created was titled A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. It was often referred to as the "Blue-Backed Speller" because of its blue cover. Schools throughout the United States used his book for over 100 years. Somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 copies were sold (“Noah Webster House,” n.d.). At the time, the only book that outsold his textbook was the Bible (Sheidlower, 2011). Unfortunately for Webster, he did not make much money from the sale of this textbook. (“Noah Webster House,” n.d.)

In 1806, Noah Webster published his first dictionary, titled A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. Next, he published a dictionary that would not only revolutionize the way dictionaries were created in the United States, but it would change dictionaries everywhere. This dictionary was titled An American Dictionary of the English Language.

Noah Webster worked on An American Dictionary of the English Language for 18 years. He learned 26 languages in order to complete his dictionary. This two-volume dictionary set contained 70,000 defined terms (12,000 of which had never before appeared in any dictionary). This was the most comprehensive dictionary to be published at the time. Prior to Noah Webster’s dictionary, Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, which defined 43,500, was the most comprehensive dictionary to be published. (Doll, 2012)

Today, the name Noah Webster is practically synonymous with dictionary in the United States. Almost every adult in the United States has used a dictionary published by Merriam-Webster at some point in his or her life, probably many times. Yet, the dictionary that Noah Webster devoted so much of his life to, only sold 2,500 copies. He spent the rest of his life in debt.


American Spellings

If you write “center” instead of “centre” or “flavor” instead of “flavor,” then you can see Noah Webster’s influence on you. When creating his language-related works, he sought to differentiate American English from British English by using distinct spelling. He also believed his spellings better represented our pronunciation. While there was initial resistance to changing from British spellings, ultimately, the many of Webster’s reforms were ultimately adopted by Americans. (“Noah Webster,” n.d.) There were, however, spellings that were not adopted by Americans. For example, Webster spelling “tung” for “tongue” was never adopted (Akrent, 2013).



If you reside in the United States, the federal copyright laws protect all of the intellectual property that you create. You can thank Noah Webster for that protection.

During the 1700s, it was not unusual for publishers to reprint entire books without permission of the author. Because of this, Webster was very concerned about protecting his intellectual property. Webster was told that he would have to seek protections from each individual state because there were no federal copyright laws. Instead, he began campaigning for federal copyright protection laws. It worked. Federal oversight of intellectual property protections was added to the U.S. constitution. In addition to being the father of the American dictionary, he was dubbed the father of the American copyright system. (Thibodeau, 2010)



Noah Webster died at the age of 86 on May 28, 1843. He was buried in the Grove City Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut. Rebecca Webster, Noah’s wife, was buried beside him upon her death.


Merriam-Webster Dictionary

After Noah Webster’s death, George and Charles Merriam, owners of a printing and bookselling business, bought the unsold copies of the second edition of Webster’s most notable dictionary entitled An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged from Webster’s heirs. They also obtained the rights to revise his work. And thus, Merriam-Webster was born. According to their website, Merriam-Webster is the “foremost publisher of language-related reference works” in the United States. (“Merriam-Webster,” n.d.)


Noah Webster was a prolific writer whose passion for language revolutionized the American lexicon. His concern over protecting his own intellection property led to protections for all Americans. Not only does his legacy live on in the Merriam-Webster publishing company, but also in our every day writing.


Doll, J. (2012, Oct 16) Noah Webster, Father of the American Dictionary Was Unemployable. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster FAQ (n.d.) Retrieved from

Noah Webster and America’s First Dictionary (n.d.) Retrieved from

Noah Webster House & Historical West Hartford Historical Society (n.d.) Retrieved from

Okrent, A. (2013, Nov. 20) 26 of Noah Webster’s Spellings That Didn’t Catch On. The Week. Retrieved from

Sheidlower, J. (2011, May 27) Noah Webster, Founding Father [Review of book The Forgotten Founding Father, by Kendall, J.]. The New York Times, from

Thibodeau, A. (2010, May 14) Noah Webster – ‘Father’ of the American Copyright System. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Susan Bates

My professional experience includes work as an academic advisor, a career advisor, a school counselor, and a college instructor. I have a master’s degree in student affairs counseling in higher education and a bachelor’s degree is in advertising with minors in English and psychology.

I love to write. Because I have a passion for education and career development, the majority of my writings have focused on education, learning, and career planning. I plan to continue exploring these topics as well as others through my writing.

Among other places, my writings have been published in The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal and on the website BellaOnline.

I can be found on Twitter @susan_bates.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • rommelortega profile image


      3 years ago from METRO MANILA

      The world needs the English language, we should not doubt it. I am hoping that there should only be one English language for the world and other languages secondary to it. We should not repeat the "The Tower of Babel Syndrome" of the Old World. While languages are alive, I do believe that codifying English will make this language "orthodox (true and established)" for a very long time. I am happy for the English language. :)

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      3 years ago from Ohio

      I've heard of the 'blue-backed speller" but never realized it was written by Webster. It seems he was the father of the American language.

    • profile image

      Sarah Butland 

      3 years ago

      Wow! Incredibly researched and well written. Thanks for the information and thanks to Websters for the copyright protections! Though, as a Canadian, I do write colour and centre, I respect the Webster way of writing.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      Informative article. Until reading this, I never really appreciated the dedication Webster had to giving American English its own separate identity. And I hadn't heard about his influence in establishing federal copyright protection. So, hooray for Webster!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)