The first bilingual dictionary, Georgian-Italian was compiled and published in 1629 in Rome. Between 1629 and 1870 approximately ten European-Georgian and Georgian-European dictionaries were compiled.
At the beginning of the 19th century Georgia became a part of the Russian Empire and since that time the major emphasis has been placed on Russian-Georgian and Georgian-Russian lexicography, both general and specialised dictionaries.
As a result of such an approach bilingual lexicography of the Georgian language suffered in respect to European languages.
Even when the first English-Georgian, or other European-Georgian dictionaries appeared from the 1940s, they were mere translations of English-Russian or European-Russian dictionaries.
In bilingual dictionaries of this type it was impossible to avoid inaccuracies, even gross mistakes.
As we know, seemingly identical meanings of the words from any two languages never fully coincide, particularly in this case with such unrelated, systemically different languages as Georgian and English. It is easily imaginable what discrepancies and inconsistencies may arise in a dictionary if the explanation of English words is based upon the semantic structure of the Russian language.
Thus, the bilingual lexicography of that period was based on erroneous lexicographical principles and this happened when Georgia was in urgent need of a comprehensive, reliable English-Georgian dictionary which would serve as a bridge connecting our country with the global English-speaking community.
A Comprehensive English-Georgian Dictionary
In 1960s, the English Department of Tbilisi State University launched a project of paramount importance, initiating the compilation of the Comprehensive English-Georgian Dictionary (160,000 word-entries).
Unfortunately, from the very beginning the Project was based upon the same incorrect theoretical principles; namely, it was decided to translate the New English-Russian Dictionary edited by Prof. I. R. Galperin.
In the 1980s, the English Department established the Editorial Staff of the Comprehensive English-Georgian Dictionary which was entrusted with the task of examining the already compiled cards of entries and with the initiation of the editorial and publishing activities.
On examining the existing material, the editors had to arrive at the conclusion that it was impossible to edit the material in the form in which it was executed. It also became obvious that it was necessary to thoroughly revise the already compiled dictionary entries.
The Editorial Staff developed new principles for the creation of the English-Georgian Dictionary. The principle of the compilation of entries of the English-Georgian Dictionary basing on the English-Russian Dictionary was irreversibly renounced. The compilation of a bilingual concordance was also considered. Bilingual concordance had to be based on translated pieces of literature. However, in that period of our history belles-lettres was rarely translated directly from the original, as Georgian translations were habitually made from respective Russian translations of English books. The majority of Georgian translators treated original texts rather freely, without giving due consideration to the problems of equivalence. Based on above-mentioned reasons, the editors of the Comprehensive English-Georgian Dictionary decided to rely upon major English explanatory dictionaries comprising ample illustrative material selected from numerous pieces of English-language literature, from the Bible, from newspapers and magazines, and so on, using them as the sources for the Dictionary.
The process of revision and editing of the material of the Comprehensive English-Georgian Dictionary has continued for 25 years.
Galperin's dictionary was revised and reprocessed with the help of the Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Webster's Third New International Unabridged Dictionary; Cambridge University, Longman, and COBUILD dictionaries, as well as with the help of other reliable explanatory dictionaries of the English language.
In 1992, the Editorial Staff decided to digitalise the edited entries of the Dictionary and to start publishing the Dictionary in fascicles on a letter-by-letter basis. In 1995, the first fascicle of the Comprehensive English-Georgian Dictionary, the letter A, was published which was soon (1996) followed by two more fascicles, letters B and C. By now, thirteen fascicles of the English-Georgian Dictionary have been published, from letters A to O (comprising 70 000 entries).
It must be noted that the Comprehensive English-Georgian Dictionary is comprised of a significant quantity of terms from practically all existing fields and branches of science:
anatomy, archaeology, astronomy, banking, biology, geography, geology, economics, arts, linguistics, mathematics, medicine, mineralogy, military, radio, law, technical, physics, philosophy, psychology, and so on.
In 2009 the Editorial Staff made a decision to launch “A Comprehensive English-Georgian Online Dictionary”. The online version of the Dictionary was posted on the Internet in February 2010. The Online Dictionary is not a stereotyped version of the printed edition of the Comprehensive English Georgian Dictionary. First fascicles of the English Georgian Dictionary, which were prepared and published back in 1980s and 1990s, have undergone a thorough revision. The online version has also comprised letters P to Z, which have not as yet been published as printed fascicles.