Day 17, Lexicographer


Many people, including myself, wonder about the origins of words and how they became so widely spread.Currently there are only theories and vague facts to satisfy our curiosity, and perhaps we will never know who decided that everyone should call a grapefruit a grapefruit.

What I do know and can tell you is that words are still being created and verified today, and Lexicographers are behind it.They have a very unique and important job.


You guessed it, Lexicographers are the people who compile dictionaries (bi-lingual, ). They have added words from “dilletante” (look it up) to “selfie” to the updated dictionaries sitting on store shelves currently.

If you are passionate about language and etymology (where specific words originated from) or you’ve  ever read a page or two of the dictionary for fun (cough, NERD, cough) this career could be just what you’re looking for.

Tasks involved in this career:

Most time is spent editing dictionary entries and updating meanings of words using a large database. What this means is long hours scouring and comparing language sources to come up with new, improved dictionaries. Discovering new words is a seldom occurrence as so much research (comparing and verifying information to make sure it is valid) is involved but they get huge satisfaction when they do.


Personality and skills required for this position:

Passion for language and etymology come first in this area. After this it is important one has an up-to-date and advanced knowledge of and hold on language, a brilliant vocabulary, the ability to effectively research and record data and a good and organised work ethic. Finally, as the job involves so much detailed research one has to be patient and motivated.


How to get into this career:


To be considered you will need to have a degree. English, Linguistics or Languages are the preferred degrees but you will still be considered if you have completed degrees in other fields.

Universities/companies that publish dictionaries eg. Oxford. are hiring most of the Lexigraphers world wide so find one that suits you, see that you meet their requirements and then apply.

Usually one starts out as an Assistant Editor for a few years and then moves up to be a Lexicographer.

Don’t be too confident though, most lexicographers hold doctorate degrees, you have to demonstrate real passion and skill for lexicography to make it in this career.


The working hours:

This is a guaranteed office job so be prepared for many hours sitting in front of a computer screen or books. Entry level positions require the regular 9-5 time span (and even allow some freelance/out of office work) but as one advances in position as do the working hours.


The pay:

Currently the average annual amount for a Lexicographer is $25,229 starter salary (Assistant Editor position) increasing up till $42,048 or more (high ranking Lexicographer position).

I found no results for South Africa, but there’s a dictionary specifically for South African slang so I know there are Lexicographers here somewhere, they just seem to be stingy with giving out their details…


The pros:

-If you are a word, etymology fan this work will be stimulating and exciting.

-There is lots or room for advancement in this career.

-The salary is comfortable.

-You get to verify/coin words that the entire world will use and be influenced by (talk about making a difference).


The cons:

-Your workplace is generally restricted to an office, in front of a computer screen.

-There is a long of research and referencing to be done before being able to make any significant discoveries.

-It is a rather anti-social career.


My conclusion and rating on this career:

Living in an office most of the time in an anti-social, super-human focus atmosphere doesn’t exactly grab me specifically but I can see how it would be the dream job of a language fanatic. It must be cool being able to say you were the one who verified the word “swag” or some other popular word (#partytrick). Lexicography earns an overall rating of 5/10 from me.

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