The volumes of the 15th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica (plus the volume for the year 2002) span two bookshelves in a library.
Title page of Lucubrationes, 1541 edition, one of the first books to use a variant of the word encyclopedia in the title

An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia is a reference work or compendium providing summaries of knowledge either from all branches or from a particular field or discipline.[1]Encyclopedias are divided into articles or entries that are often arranged alphabetically by article name[2] and sometimes by thematic categories. Encyclopedia entries are longer and more detailed than those in most dictionaries.[2] Generally speaking, unlike dictionary entries—which focus on linguistic information about words, such as their etymology, meaning, pronunciation, use, and grammatical forms—encyclopedia articles focus on factual information concerning the subject named in the article's title.[3][4][5][6]

Encyclopedias have existed for around 2,000 years and have evolved considerably during that time as regards to language (written in a major international or a vernacular language), size (few or many volumes), intent (presentation of a global or a limited range of knowledge), cultural perspective (authoritative, ideological, didactic, utilitarian), authorship (qualifications, style), readership (education level, background, interests, capabilities), and the technologies available for their production and distribution (hand-written manuscripts, small or large print runs, Internet). As a valued source of reliable information compiled by experts, printed versions found a prominent place in libraries, schools and other educational institutions.

The appearance of digital and open-source versions in the 21st century has vastly expanded the accessibility, authorship, readership, and variety of encyclopedia entries.


Indeed, the purpose of an encyclopedia is to collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to the men with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time become more virtuous and happy, and that we should not die without having rendered a service to the human race in the future years to come.


Two Greek words misunderstood as one

The word encyclopedia comes from the Koine Greek ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία,[8] transliterated enkyklios paedia, meaning "general education" from enkyklios (ἐγκύκλιος), meaning "circular, recurrent, required regularly, general"[9] and paedia (παιδεία), meaning "education, rearing of a child"; together, the phrase literally translates as "complete instruction" or "complete knowledge".[10] However, the two separate words were reduced to a single word due to a scribal error[11] by copyists of a Latin manuscript edition of Quintillian in 1470.[12] The copyists took this phrase to be a single Greek word, enkyklopaedia, with the same meaning, and this spurious Greek word became the New Latin word "encyclopaedia", which in turn came into English. Because of this compounded word, fifteenth century readers and since have often, and incorrectly, thought that the Roman authors Quintillian and Pliny described an ancient genre.[13]

Sixteenth century usage of the compounded word

Title page of Skalich's Encyclopaediæ, seu orbis disciplinarum, tam sacrarum quam prophanarum, epistemon from 1559, first clear use of the word encyclopaedia in the title.[14]

In the sixteenth century there was a level of ambiguity as to how to use this new word. As several titles illustrate, there was not a settled notion about its spelling nor its status as a noun. For example: Jacobus Philomusus's Margarita philosophica encyclopaediam exhibens (1508); Johannes Aventinus's Encyclopedia orbisque doctrinarum, hoc est omnium artium, scientiarum, ipsius philosophiae index ac divisio; Joachimus Fortius Ringelbergius's Lucubrationes vel potius absolutissima kyklopaideia (1538, 1541); Paul Skalich's Encyclopaediæ, seu orbis disciplinarum, tam sacrarum quam prophanarum, epistemon (1559); Gregor Reisch's Margarita philosophica (1503, retitled Encyclopaedia in 1583); and Samuel Eisenmenger's Cyclopaedia Paracelsica (1585).[15]

There have been two examples of the oldest vernacular use of the compounded word. In approximately 1490, Franciscus Puccius wrote a letter to Politianus thanking him for his Miscellanea, calling it an encyclopedia.[16] More commonly, François Rabelais is cited for his use of the term in Pantagruel (1532).[17][18]

The suffix -p(a)edia

Several encyclopedias have names that include the suffix -p(a)edia, to mark the text as belonging to the genre of encyclopedias. An example is Banglapedia (on matters relevant for Bangladesh).

Contemporary usage

Today in English, the word is most commonly spelled encyclopedia, though encyclopaedia (from encyclopædia) is also used in Britain.[19]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Ensiklopedie
Alemannisch: Enzyklopädie
Ænglisc: Wīsdōmbōc
العربية: موسوعة
aragonés: Enciclopedia
armãneashti: Enciclopedie
অসমীয়া: বিশ্বকোষ
asturianu: Enciclopedia
azərbaycanca: Ensiklopediya
تۆرکجه: بیلیکلیک
bamanankan: Dɔnniyagafeba
বাংলা: বিশ্বকোষ
Banjar: Insiklupidia
Bân-lâm-gú: Pek-kho-choân-su
Basa Banyumasan: Ensiklopedia
башҡортса: Энциклопедия
беларуская: Энцыклапедыя
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Энцыкляпэдыя
भोजपुरी: ज्ञानकोश
български: Енциклопедия
Boarisch: Enzyklopädie
bosanski: Enciklopedija
brezhoneg: Holloueziadur
català: Enciclopèdia
Чӑвашла: Энциклопеди
Cebuano: Ensiklopedya
čeština: Encyklopedie
Chi-Chewa: Encyclopedia
Cymraeg: Gwyddoniadur
Deitsch: Uffguckbichli
Deutsch: Enzyklopädie
ދިވެހިބަސް: ދާނެސްނާމާ
Diné bizaad: Ínsadoobíídiiya
dolnoserbski: Encyklopedija
डोटेली: विश्वकोष
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Ensiclupedìa
español: Enciclopedia
Esperanto: Enciklopedio
euskara: Entziklopedia
فارسی: دانشنامه
Fiji Hindi: Encyclopedia
føroyskt: Alfrøði
français: Encyclopédie
Fulfulde: Maanditorde
Gaeilge: Ciclipéid
Gàidhlig: Leabhar-eòlais
galego: Enciclopedia
ГӀалгӀай: Энциклопеди
贛語: 百科全書
ગુજરાતી: જ્ઞાનકોશ
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Pak-khô-chhiòn-sû
한국어: 백과사전
հայերեն: Հանրագիտարան
Արեւմտահայերէն: Հանրագիտարան
hornjoserbsce: Encyklopedija
hrvatski: Enciklopedija
Ilokano: Ensiklopedia
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: বিশ্বকোষ
Bahasa Indonesia: Ensiklopedia
interlingua: Encyclopedia
íslenska: Alfræðirit
italiano: Enciclopedia
kalaallisut: Encyklopædi
къарачай-малкъар: Энциклопедия
कॉशुर / کٲشُر: اِنسیکُلوپیٖڈیا
kaszëbsczi: Encyklopedijô
қазақша: Энциклопедия
kernowek: Godhoniador
Kiswahili: Kamusi elezo
Kreyòl ayisyen: Ansiklopedi
Кыргызча: Энциклопедия
Ladino: Ansiklopedya
latgaļu: Eņciklopedeja
latviešu: Enciklopēdija
Lëtzebuergesch: Enzyklopedie
lietuvių: Enciklopedija
Limburgs: Encyclopedie
lumbaart: Enciclupedia
македонски: Енциклопедија
Malagasy: Raki-pahalalana
मराठी: ज्ञानकोश
მარგალური: ენციკლოპედია
مصرى: موسوعه
مازِرونی: فرهنگنومه
Bahasa Melayu: Ensiklopedia
Minangkabau: Lubuak aka
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Báik-kuŏ-ciòng-cṳ̆
Mirandés: Anciclopédia
မြန်မာဘာသာ: စွယ်စုံကျမ်း
Nederlands: Encyclopedie
Nedersaksies: Encyklopedie
नेपाली: विश्वकोश
日本語: 百科事典
Napulitano: Enciclopedía
нохчийн: Энциклопеди
norsk nynorsk: Leksikon
Nouormand: Encycliopédie
occitan: Enciclopèdia
олык марий: Энциклопедий
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ଜ୍ଞାନକୋଷ
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Ensiklopediya
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਵਿਸ਼ਵਕੋਸ਼
Papiamentu: Ensiklopedia
ភាសាខ្មែរ: ប្រជុំវីជ្ជា
Tok Pisin: Ensaiklopedia
Plattdüütsch: Enzyklopädie
polski: Encyklopedia
português: Enciclopédia
Ripoarisch: Nohkixel
română: Enciclopedie
русиньскый: Енціклопедія
русский: Энциклопедия
саха тыла: Энциклопедия
संस्कृतम्: विश्वकोशः
Seeltersk: Enzyklopädie
sicilianu: Nciclupidìa
Simple English: Encyclopedia
slovenčina: Encyklopédia
slovenščina: Enciklopedija
словѣньскъ / ⰔⰎⰑⰂⰡⰐⰠⰔⰍⰟ: Єнкѷклопєдїꙗ
ślůnski: Yncyklopedyjo
српски / srpski: Енциклопедија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Enciklopedija
ၽႃႇသႃႇတႆး : ပပ်ႉသႅၼ်သမ်ႇ
svenska: Uppslagsverk
Tagalog: Ensiklopedya
tarandíne: 'Ngeclopedije
татарча/tatarça: Энциклопедия
тоҷикӣ: Донишнома
Türkçe: Ansiklopedi
українська: Енциклопедія
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: Énsklopédiye
vèneto: Ençiclopedia
Tiếng Việt: Bách khoa toàn thư
Volapük: Sikloped
文言: 百科全書
Winaray: Ensayklopedya
Wolof: Jimbulang
吴语: 百科全书
Xitsonga: Encyclopediya
粵語: 百科全書
žemaitėška: Encikluopedėjė
中文: 百科全书