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Did the Romans make any efforts to catalogue foreign languages? Or their own? Or none at all? I'm sure none have survived, but were dictionaries as a concept known to their general populace?

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    Have a look here: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/482/… – fdb Jan 22 '17 at 0:05
  • The answer is probably no. But they created encyclopedia (Pliny's Natural history). – Alex Jan 22 '17 at 19:54
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    Apparently emperor Claudius created an Etruscan/Latin dictionary, which is sadly lost. If I had the source handy, I'd turn this comment into a proper answer. – Marakai Jan 23 '17 at 23:24
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The French wikipedia page about the dictionary names two Latin authors who kind of wrote dictionaries, Varro and Verrius Flaccus. Then with the Christian era and the rise of the codex (book) and its religious use, you see a lot more, including the onomasticon (a kind of thesaurus) and a Latin-Greek dictionary in the 5th century.

But classification didn't go very far until printing spread literacy and made books both cheaper and more useful, which is why you start hearing about dictionaries in the renaissance period.

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