What Does A Lexicographer Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz


Lexicographers edit and write dictionaries to monitor and record changes in languages. This job involves a variety of activities, including defining words, organizing definitions, and specifying the pronunciations of words.

Bachelor's degree
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Lexicographers write entries in dictionaries. When you look up the definition of a word, you can thank lexicographers for helping you increase your knowledge.

Lexicographers do not receive a lot of credit for their work, but they are essential for helping people understand languages. They write original dictionary entries and spend time monitoring changes in written and spoken languages.

Lexicography is a unique field. Lexicographers are responsible for recording the evolution of languages, which may involve reading social media posts and paying attention to popular culture.

What they do

Lexicographers edit and write dictionaries to monitor and record changes in languages. This job involves a variety of activities, including defining words, organizing definitions, and specifying the pronunciations of words.

Monitor and Research Changes in Language

Monitoring trends in the way people speak and write is a major part of this job. Lexicographers are often required to pay attention to the use of specific words, phrases, and jargon. 

The use of a word or phrase may change over time. When the general population recognizes and accepts this change, a lexicographer may update a dictionary entry to reflect the new use of the word.

For example, the word “awful” was originally used to describe something worthy of awe, such as an inspiring moment. Over the years, the word “awful” took on a negative meaning. 

Along with changes in meaning to existing words, lexicographers may look for new words to add to a dictionary. New words often start as slang or jargon in specific cultures or regions before becoming commonly accepted. 

For a new word to make it into the dictionary, it needs to be widely used among a large group of people. It also needs to possess staying power, which means being a word that people are likely to use for a long time.

Write Original Dictionary Entries

Lexicographers write original entries for print and digital dictionaries. When they work on a new dictionary or identify a new word that needs to be added to a dictionary, they are responsible for writing the definition and explaining the pronunciation of the word. 

The word is often broken into syllables. It is then categorized as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. The entry may also contain related forms of the word. Following the definition, the entry may contain an example of the word being used in a sentence. 

The structure of the entry depends on the dictionary. Lexicographers typically follow a strict outline for each entry.

Edit the Work of Other Lexicographers

Practical Lexicographers spend most of their time editing the work of other lexicographers. This may include reviewing submissions for a new dictionary or updating existing entries. 

Entry-level lexicographers are also required to edit and review dictionary entries. For example, they may review recent entries to ensure that they follow the required structure and format.

Research the Meaning and Origins of Words

Some lexicographers work in the field of theoretical lexicography, which is the scholarly study of languages and involves researching the meaning and origins of words. Theoretical lexicographers tend to work at universities or colleges and may even be professors of lexicography.

What is the job like


You Get to Learn New Things

Lexicographers constantly learn new things as they research words, which helps keep this job interesting.

You Do Not Need a Specific Degree

While most lexicographers major in English or communications, you can enter this field with almost any Bachelor’s degree.

You Get to Spend Time Online

Lexicographers often use the internet and browse social media topics to pay attention to language trends, which can be entertaining.

Stress-Free Work

Lexicography is not a stressful field. You are unlikely to encounter stressful or challenging situations based solely on your job responsibilities.


Limited Opportunities

Lexicography is not a large field, creating a lot of competition for job openings, which can make it difficult to find work.

Limited Recognition

Most people will not understand what you do for a living or may be surprised that being a lexicographer is a real job.

Where they work

Dictionary publishing companies
Book publishers
Universities and colleges
Media companies

Lexicographers primarily work for dictionary publishing companies and standard publishers. They may also offer their services as freelance lexicographers. Some media companies also employ lexicographers. Theoretical lexicographers may work for academic institutions, including universities and colleges.

How to become one

Step 1: Study English in High School

Lexicographers need strong English skills, which high school students can focus on before attending college.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Lexicographers typically require at least a Bachelor’s degree. The most common majors for lexicographers include English, communications, and English literature.

Step 3: Find an Entry-Level Job

Most lexicographers start as assistant editors at dictionary publishing companies.

Step 4: Look for Writer Positions

After gaining several years of experience, you may start looking for writing positions, as full-time lexicography jobs often require experience as an assistant editor or editor.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Organizer

People with this personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Lexicographers need excellent writing skills, as they make a living writing accurate definitions of words. Working in this field also requires dedication, as you will receive limited recognition and potentially limited pay.

Many lexicographers have great organizational skills, which are necessary when you work without direct supervision. Curiosity is another important trait, as lexicographers need to constantly ask questions when evaluating and researching words.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.


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