about the project

dic·tio·nary (ˈdik-shə-ˌner-ē, -ˌne-rē) n.,  plural dic·tio·nar·ies  (Medieval Latin dictionarium, from Late Latin diction-, dictio word, from Latin, speaking) 1 : a reference source in print or electronic form containing words usually alphabetically arranged along with information about their forms, pronunciations, functions, etymologies, meanings, and syntactical and idiomatic uses 2 : a reference book listing alphabetically terms or names important to a particular subject or activity along with discussion of their meanings and applications 3 : a reference book giving for words of one language equivalents in another 4 : a computerized list (as of items of data or words) used for reference (as for information retrieval or word processing)

proj·ect (ˈprä-ˌjekt, -jikt also ˈprō-) n. (Middle English projecte, from Medieval Latin projectum, from Latin, neuter of projectus, past participle of proicerepro- + jacare to throw — more at jet to throw forward, from)  1: a specific plan or design : scheme 2: obsolete: idea 3: a planned undertaking: as a: a definitely formulated piece of research b: a large usually government-supported undertaking c: a task or problem engaged in usually by a group of students to supplement and apply classroom studies 4: a usually public housing development consisting of houses or apartments built and arranged according to a single plan

(dictionary and project definitions taken from merriam-webster.com)

the premise (syns.: proposition, invitation, motion, overture, plan, presentation, proffer, program, project, proposal, recommendation):

500,000 possibilities. 1 word. 1 writer. 1 week.

Driven by a love of language and serendipity, the dictionary project was born. I, the resident logophile, am interested in what happens when chance intersects with language and what happens when we are forced to consider words we never use or reconsider ones we use everyday; what happens when we revisit words that are outdated or have changed meanings; what happens when our day-to-day lives, experiences, and thoughts intersect and complicate the words and definitions we encounter.

The Dictionary Project came out of these questions and my obsession with language and fascination with bibliomancy, the practice of divination through books. In the project, these intersect; I close my eyes and run my fingers through a dictionary and then across the page I fall upon. Whatever word my index finger lands on is, without exception, the next Dictionary Project word.

Over the years, The Dictionary Project has evolved beyond its initial experiment to become a forum and space for considering, questioning, and discussing language. Guest contributors offer their insights and artistic interpretation of Dictionary Project words and visitors add to the discourse in the comments section. Beginning in 2012, we added non-traditional author interviews and the first open writing contest, where readers can “Write This Word.”

Every word in every dictionary is expansive beyond measure, with endless room for meaning to be rooted out and sorted through and divvied up, and I see The Dictionary Project in this way. This project provided a beautiful sort of opening, a palette full of color and a blank canvas, for me as a writer. My hope and belief is that the project will continue to offer this same liberating space for growth, critical thought, and artistic expression to others.

the (resident) logophile (n. a lover of words):

Lisa O’Neill lives in Tucson. She likes cacti, despite their curmudgeonly appearance, and taking her dog Magnolia for walks. She was born and raised in New Orleans, which she misses every day. She reads. She writes. She teaches. She plays music. Lisa really loves words. Sometimes, but not always, they return her affections.