Microsoft Corp., St. Martin's, Bloomsbury Publishing and Pan Macmillan Australia plan to publish what they say is the first English dictionary to be derived from a single database of world English and to be published in both American and British editions around the world on the same day. In development for three years, the dictionary, to be called Encarta World English Dictionary, is scheduled for release in August 1999.

The dictionary, composed of more than three million words, is being created from a database developed by Bloomsbury, which will distribute the print edition in the U.K. and Europe. St. Martin's will handle the distribution in North America, and Pan Macmillan Australia will distribute the title in Australia and New Zealand. Microsoft has worldwide electronic rights, including online and CD-ROM rights. According to St. Martin's, the company hopes to engage in cross marketing opportunities with Microsoft. St. Martin's participation in the project also marks the publisher's entry into the dictionary market, a field that CEO John Sargent said the company intends to aggressively pursue.

Following publication of the main dictionary, the partners have agreed to do a number of spin-off products including a college dictionary, a mass market edition and category dictionaries in such areas as sports and medicine.A worldwide first printing of 500,000 copies has been set, with a tentative price of about $50.