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Edmond Huguet, Dictionary of the Sixteenth Century

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In the same way as Frédéric Godefroy and his Dictionary of old french langage and all its dialects or Adolf Tobler and Erhard Lommatzsch with their Altfranzösisches Wörterbuch for medieval language, the Dictionary of the 16th century (1925-1967) by Edmond Huguet constitutes the essential reference for Renaissance language.

The dictionary’s nomenclature (more than 100 000 entries) offers almost all the words of the Renaissance language. To build up this treasure, Huguet did not limit his work to the 16th century: he often explored the 15th century and linked his work to Godefroy’s dictionary in order to put his lexicon in perspective. He also extended his work to the 17th century to give his dictionary depth and to build a “history of words”.

Huguet consulted thousands of texts from which he drew a list of extinct words. Among them, he emphasized borrowed words that came mostly from Latin or Italian. These words enjoyed great success in the 16th century before dropping out of common language.

Fully aware that a history of words is also a history of their changes in meaning, Huguet drew up a list of thousands of words that appear deceptively familiar to a modern reader. As for the words that have never ceased to be used since the Renaissance, Huguet gives the exact date of their appearance.

Huguet’s Dictionary is also a dictionary of spelling and translation. It gathers under each entry all the orthographical forms taken by a word throughout the ages and gives its precise translation into modern French with a highly developed sense of nuance.

The number of examples given is of amazing wealth, that goes far beyond what was necessary to determine the precise sense of the words. Huguet was not content simply to compose a lexicographical work. His project was much wider : he aimed to give readers and historians all the documents he had accumulated on the vocabulary of the “broad” 16th century.


Studies on Renaissance, Middle French language, literature, history, linguistic history, lexicography


Claude Blum, professor at the Sorbonne