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Birth of the Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary or OED was first published on February 1, 1884. It’s considered to be the most comprehensive and accurate dictionary of the English language. It informs people of the meaning, pronunciation, and history of more than half a million words.

Members of the Philological Society in London, England began making plans for the dictionary in 1857. They wanted to publish an up-to-date and error-free English dictionary that would include vocabulary from the Anglo-Saxon period about 1150 A.D. to the present. The dictionary would come in four-volumes, altogether 6,400 pages and the project would take ten years to complete. The 125th and final separately finished installment of the book was published in April 1928. The full dictionary had more than 400,000 words and phrases in ten volumes and the title was A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles.

The OED provided a detailed chronological history for every word and phrase. It also included quotations from many different sources among them classic literature and cookbooks. This dictionary is known for its lengthy cross-references and etymologies. Soon new entries and revisions came out in 1933 and the original dictionary was reprinted in 12 volumes and renamed The Oxford English Dictionary.

The updated 4-volume supplement with new terms including words and phrases from North America, Australia, the Caribbean, New Zealand, South Africa, and South Asia was put together between 1972 and 1986. In 1984 the Oxford University Press began a five-year project to create an electronic version of the dictionary. A CD-ROM version of the dictionary was released in 1992. The Oxford University Press continues to update quarterly adding more than 1,000 new entries and revisions.

  • Question of

    Do you have an Oxford dictionary?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    Do you use online dictionaries?

    • Yes
    • No

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