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An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia, also (rarely) encyclopædia,Owing to differences in British and American English orthographic conventions, the spellings encyclopaedia and encyclopedia both see common use, in British-/Commonwealth- and American-influenced sources, respectively. The spelling encyclopædia – with the æ ligature – was frequently used in the 19th century and is increasingly rare, although it is retained in product titles such as Encyclopædia Britannica and others. The Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's Third New International Dictionary record both spellings: the former (1989) notes the æ would be obsolete except that it is preserved in works that have Latin titles, while the latter (1961-2002) notes that the digraph is rare in the U.S. Similarly, cyclopaedia and cyclopedia are rarely used truncations of the word originating in the early 17th century. is a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge.

For a list of notable encyclopedias in history, see list of encyclopedias.

General definition

Word history

The word comes from the Classical Greek (pron. enkyklios paideia), literally 'the things education of boys in a circle', meaning "a general education". Though the notion of a compendium of knowledge dates back thousands of years, the term was first used in the title of a book in 1541 by Joachimus Fortius Ringelbergius in the title-page of his Lucubrationes vel potius absolutissima kyklopaideia (Basel, 1541). It was first used as a noun by the encyclopedist Paul Skalić in the title of his book Encyclopaedia seu orbis disciplinarum tam sacrarum quam prophanarum epistemon ("Encyclopaedia, or Knowledge of the World of Disciplines")(Basel, 1559).

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