five years, Webster's New International
Dictionary mistakenly included an
entry for a word which didn't exist!
Lexicographers are human, and as a result their dictionaries contain
errors, not many to be sure! These errors consist for the most part of misspellings,
words out of alphabetical order and missing cross-references or variants mentioned
in definitions. A rarer type of error is the inclusion in a dictionary of an
accidental word form or 'ghost word' (a term coined by etymologist Walter Skeat
in 1886). One of the more famous errors was the appearance of the ghost word dord in
the second edition of Webster's New International Dictionary in 1934. Dord was
listed on page 771, between the entries for Dorcopsis and doré,
as a noun meaning density in the fields of Physics and Chemistry:
In the first edition of Webster's, entries for abbreviations
and words had been intermingled -- the abbreviation lb (for 'pound'),
for example, would be found immediately after the entry for the word lazy.
In the second edition, however, abbreviations were supposed to be collected in
a separate section at the back of the dictionary. In 1931, a card had been prepared
bearing the notation "D or d, cont/ density" (the
notation 'cont/', short for 'continued'...) to indicate that the next edition
of the dictionary should include additional definitions for D and d as abbreviations
of the word density. Somehow the card became misdirected during the
editorial process and landed in the "words" pile rather than the "abbreviations" pile.
The 'D or d' notation ended up being set as the single word dord,
a synonym for density.
P.S. - Curiously, I've discovered recently that the noun dord refers
to an European variant of the didgeridoo, an Aborigine musical instrument. Dord was
played 3,000 years ago in North-West Europe (some bronze pieces have been found