One of the Academy’s major enterprises—undertaken in its role as the supreme institute of the Hebrew language—is the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language. Initiated with the founding of the Academy in the 1950s, the Historical Dictionary Project aims to compile an authoritative historical dictionary of the Hebrew lexicon: the meanings and morphology of words over the generations, their first attestations, and when their use ceased. As opposed to historical dictionaries of European languages, which rely on select quotations alone, the HDP’s vision was to create a complete computerized database of all the Hebrew texts up to the eleventh century, and a large selection of Hebrew literature from the eleventh century to the founding of the state of Israel. In practice, a decision was made to begin with postbiblical literature; thus, at present, the database encompasses over two thousand years of Hebrew writing.
After five decades of dedicated effort by dozens of scholars of linguistics, literature, and Judaic studies, the Historical Dictionary has achieved its vision. Its database constitutes a unique treasure trove: a complete computerized concordance of ancient and modern Hebrew literature, presently available on the Ma’agarim website.
In 2005 the Academy staff began writing the entries for the historical dictionary, at this stage, for the ancient literature section only.