Release notes: etymology summaries

By Philip Durkin, Deputy Chief Editor

From December 2015 onwards, we have begun adding some new material at the beginning of the etymology section for each OED entry. This comprises a short statement of the etymological type shown by each word, accompanied by a listing of the word’s primary etymons, i.e. the forms in either English or other languages from which it is directly derived.

Thus the beginning of the etymology for recycle v. now looks like this:

while the etymology for rainstorm n. looks like this:

and that for safari v. (‘to go on safari’) looks like this:

For simple etymologies like these, the summary data adds classification and explanation, which we hope to supplement in time with support pages explaining, for instance, what the typical features are of conversion as a word-forming process in English today, and how frequent or infrequent conversion has been in different periods of the history of English.

Summaries bring additional advantages at the beginning of more complex etymologies, where we hope that they will provide an initial point of orientation, and a précis of key information that can be kept in sight even if the entry is being viewed with the full etymology section folded away. Thus the beginning of the etymology section for proportion n. now looks like this:

and red adj. looks like this:

To date this new feature has been implemented for a large proportion of those entries that have already been published in revised form as part of the dictionary’s revision programme, as well as for the material in each quarter’s release of newly revised entries, but not yet for unrevised parts of the dictionary text. We hope to extend this work in the near future.