Certain groups of words have intentionally been left out of my Glossary for Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Here’s an outline of which types of words, and why.

To begin, the Glossary does not provide explanations of terms that, even while potentially confusing on their own, make sense in context. For example, when Smith writes…

“The following goods, however, were excepted: alum, lead, lead ore, tin, tanned leather, copperas, coals, wool cards, white woolen cloths, lapis calaminaris, skins of all sorts, glue, coney hair or wool, hares’ wool, hair of all sorts, horses, and litharge of lead.”

…the reader does not need to know what “lapis calaminaris” actually is, in order to understand the point of the sentence — namely, that the law being discussed made exceptions for a large number of kinds of goods.

Secondly, I also have not generally included words that had a special significance in Smith’s 18th Century Great Britain. The word “parish”, is a good example. At one point in The Wealth of Nations, Smith refers to the role of parishes in governing the lives of workers. The word “parish” of course is in current usage, though it will be most familiar to members of certain Christian church groups. Modern readers may well be mildly confused by the particular way in which Smith uses the term, because most modern societies no longer give church parishes any government function at all. However, this problem cannot be eliminated by any simple substitution of terms — to explain the significance of parishes in 18th Century Great Britain requires more some understanding of the socio-political context, and goes beyond what can be provided in a simple Glossary.

Thirdly, I have omitted words that Smith himself explains. For example, Smith refers at one point to “a prohibition … of claying or refining sugar for any foreign market.” The word “claying” may of course be unfamiliar, but Smith himself explains that it means “refining.”

Finally, I have likewise left out words and phrases that refer to monetary units. When Smith writes of English “pounds and farthings” or “French sou,” many North American readers may be confused. However, in most cases the point that Smith is making – about the rise or fall of prices, or the relative value of one kind of labour to another – will generally be clear from context, the actual units of currency providing only an illustration.