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Littré, Dictionary of the French language

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Le Dictionnaire de la langue française by Émile Littré (Paris, 1873, and 1877, as regards the Supplément) inaugurated a new era of lexicography. It was the first dictionary to illustrate both philological lexicography and historical lexicography at the same time. Philological lexicography in the sense that the dictionary is founded on considerable textual documentation amounting to more than 300,000 quotations taken from French literature since the Middle Ages; historical lexicography because the description of language as understood by Littré rests on the establishment of a historical chain of linguistic facts.

Littré’s lexicographic enterprise is particular in that it did not remain limited to its own epoch. Rather, it ushered in a tradition which is still alive and admired today.

The electronic edition by Classiques Garnier Numérique is itself the result of considerable lexicographic and scholarly work, the aim of which was to make the resources and riches of this exceptional dictionary available to users. Consequently, users can search each rubric of the Littré entries: meaning, remarks, synonyms, history, and etymology. It is also possible to search around the entries themselves, be it the grammatical category, pronunciation, variants or marks of use or field. Quotations and proverbs each have a dedicated search screen, facilitating the use and study of this unrivalled corpus. The potential of the numerous references and links between definitions established by Littré has been fully realised thanks to a vast, classified network with specific search fields.

This new digital edition of the Littré deserves a place in every library.


Dictionary, lexicography, history, history of language, literature


Claude Blum, professor at the Sorbonne
With the collaboration of Elisabeth Grimaldi (Paris VII University), Chantal Wionet (University of Avignon and Metadif, CNRS) and Philippe Derendinger (Altdorf – Switzerland)
Presentation by Elisabeth Grimaldi