Words and Richard Baxter


Keeble NH (2021) Words and Richard Baxter. Seventeenth Century.

That Richard Baxter was a prolific author is well known but not that he was also, and perhaps unexpectedly given the haste with which he wrote, closely attentive to words and their meanings. This essay examines this neglected aspect of his career and, on the basis chiefly of the evidence available in the Oxford English Dictionary, demonstrates for the first time just how extensive a contribution he made to the development of the English lexicon, among the most significant of any seventeenth-century author. He is the first recorded user of over 200 words, the majority of which may be supposed his coinages, and in addition he was the first to use another 100 or more in specific senses, many of them still current. His concern for semantic accuracy and his lexical inventiveness is set in the contexts of: the period’s general preoccupation with denotative precision; Baxter’s ecumenical mission; and his distrust as a ‘mere Christian’ of linguistic formulae.

Richard Baxter; English lexicon; etymology; Oxford English Dictionary; religious controversy

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

StatusIn Press
Publication date online01/04/2021
Date accepted by journal04/03/2021