Key to symbols and other conventions

Before a word or sense

= obsolete
= not naturalized, alien (not used in New Edition entries)
= catachrestic and erroneous uses (not used in New Edition entries)

After a label ‘Obs.’ or ‘rare

0 indicates a word or sense for which no contextual examples from printed sources were available to the editors
1
indicates a word or sense for which only one contextual example from a printed source was available to the editors

In a listing of variant spellings

Second Edition entries:

1 = before 1100
2 = 12th century (1100-1200)
3 = 13th century (1200-1300), etc.
5-7 = 15th to 17th century, etc.
9- = 19th century to present, etc.
20 = 20th century

 

New Edition entries:

eOE = early Old English
OE = Old English
lOE = late Old English
eME = early Middle English
ME = Middle English
lME = late Middle English
14 = 1400-99
15 = 1500-99, etc.
16-18 = 1600-1899, etc.
18- = 1800-present, etc.
-17 = before 1700 (labelling Older Scottish forms)

In an etymology

* indicates a word or form not actually found, but of which the existence is inferred
< = from (in New Edition entries)
> = developed into or borrowed as (in New Edition entries)

Before a date

a = ante
c = circa
? indicates an uncertain date

In a quotation

.. (within cited text) indicates an omitted part of a quotation
[ ] surrounds an editorial insertion
~ indicates a hyphen introduced in the printing of the First Edition of the OED, which may not have been present in the cited text

Around an entire quotation

[ ] indicates a quotation is relevant to the development of a sense but not directly illustrative of it

Around an entire entry

[ ] indicates a ‘spurious’ entry