Real dictionary

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The real dictionary (also real dictionary, non-fiction dictionary, non-fiction dictionary ) has been a genre of dictionaries since the 18th century , which exclusively or predominantly offer factual information on the individual keywords. In the period that followed, the scholarly and political goals of the authors, the specialization and expansion of the sciences , the literacy and thirst for education of ever larger sections of the population, as well as the entrepreneurial initiative of publishers, resulted in a large number of real dictionaries, which produced an extraordinary variety of titles and types.

The naming of the genus real dictionary is not uniform. The oldest term is real dictionary . The term subject dictionary is often chosen when the difference to the language dictionary is to be emphasized. Reallexikon is only used for individual real dictionaries. The designation of the individual real dictionaries is also inconsistent with regard to the two basic forms of dictionary and lexicon . Both occur both alone and in composite form in many variations.

Real dictionaries are products of subject lexicography (see lexicography ).

Creation of the German real dictionaries

A significant increase in works with the title Lexicon has been observed in the German-speaking area since the beginning of the 18th century. The addition Reales appears here for the first time in 1704, emphasizing the factual character of the information provided: Reales Staats- und Zeitungs-Lexicon . This type of reference work was soon clearly recognized by contemporaries as an innovation: in 1713 it was said in the New Book Room of the Learned World that there were two types of lexicons, one of which explains the words and idioms found in a language and them bring the root words into alphabetical order . The other had broken down certain parts of scholarship and described the things that occurred in them ( called realia as early as 1712 ) in alphabetical order. There has long been a large supply of the first type, whereas the second is gradually developing and becoming fashionable almost everywhere .

This development continued in the course of the 18th century when a total of 29 new lexicons appeared between 1704 and 1737 alone. In the Universal Lexicon of 1748 it already says: word book, lexicon, what is meant by it is more than too known to everyone, just as also that they are of two kinds. In 1760 Johann Christoph Gottsched was finally able to determine that a large number of real dictionaries had been published since the beginning of the 18th century and only listed the titles of lexicons as examples: newspaper lexicon, lexicon of all sciences and arts, trade lexicon, etc. This also includes quite a few theological ones and legal reallexicon .


The content of the real dictionaries is historically defined differently, mostly in contrast to the so-called language dictionaries:

  • 1748: Those word books dealing with languages ​​are older than those dealing with sciences. They also have the name: Lexicon, with more rights than these ... After the time, however, this name has also become the property of those writings that present things and sciences in alphabetical order. (Zedler)
  • 1802: Real-Schule, a school in which not only words and languages, but also the arts and sciences necessary for bourgeois life are taught. From the middle lat. realis, Franz. réel, as far as it is contrary to mere words. ( Johann Christoph Adelung : Grammatical-Critical Dictionary of High German Dialect )
  • 1849: Subject dictionary: a dictionary about things, ie objects or scientific terms of any subject (formerly Real-Lexikon). ( Johann Christian August Heyse : Concise Dictionary of the German Language )
  • 1958: A subject dictionary is a larger or smaller collection of words arranged alphabetically or according to subject groups, usually with explanations of meaning, whereby the objective perspective is in the foreground when selecting the words, so that the vast majority of the keywords are nouns (sometimes only proper names) and other parts of speech are only are taken into account insofar as they are technical terms or components of technical terms. (Wolfram Zaunmüller: Bibliographical Handbook of Language Dictionaries )
  • 1960: Dictionary…, 2) as an explanatory collection of terms, catchwords and artificial words belonging to a certain subject area and field of knowledge, from works of encyclopaedic character in alphabetical order and containing individual contributions. partly based on the language used by the french encyclopedists . ( German dictionary vol. 30)
  • 1978: Lexicon: reference work arranged alphabetically according to keywords for all fields of knowledge or for a specific subject. ( Duden: The great dictionary of the German language )
  • 1988: Subject dictionary: reference work on non-linguistic objects (= things) . (Wiegand p. 746)
  • 2000: Subject dictionaries contain information on things, facts, people. (Schaeder p. 5)


Real dictionaries are mainly used in terms of the breadth of the presentation, i.e. H. the scope of the treated areas of knowledge, differentiated into

Since the 20th century , dictionaries of a type that had been widespread in France up to that time, which fulfill linguistic lexicographical and subject lexicographical information on an equal footing and want to fulfill the basic functions of both dictionary types, have also been in existence in Germany. It is called the All Book . The use of the also proposed term encyclopedic dictionary is problematic, since there have been dictionaries with this designation in Germany since the beginning of the 19th century, which can be assigned to either the real dictionaries or the language dictionaries. (Wiegand 1988)

Hybrid forms of the two main genres occur particularly in the area of ​​technical lexicons, where technical dictionaries often also have their own weighted content of subject information, or subject-specific specialized dictionaries also integrate linguistic information about the lemma and its translatability.


  • Paul Raabe : Scholarly reference works in the 18th century in Germany . In: Bernhard Fabian u. a. (Ed.): Learned books from humanism to the present , Wiesbaden: In Komm. Bei Harrassowitz 1983 (Wolfenbütteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens; 9) pp. 97–117
  • Bernhard Kossmann: German universal encyclopedias of the 18th century: their nature and their informational value, illustrated using the example of Jablonski and Zedler . In: Börsenblatt for the German book trade, Frankfurt edition, 1968, Sp. 2946-2968
  • Burkhard Schaeder: Small bibliography of German dictionaries . Wins 2000
  • Herbert Ernst Wiegand : What actually is specialist lexicography? With information on the relationship between linguistic and encyclopedic knowledge . In: Horst Haider Munske (ed.): Deutscher Wortschatz , Berlin: de Gruyter 1988, pp. 729–790

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Word Book, Lexicon. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 58, Leipzig 1748, column 68.