The OED and Oxford Dictionaries

Oxford publishes many different types of dictionaries in print and online, from bilingual dictionaries, dictionaries for English learners, and children’s dictionaries to dictionaries for research and study.

Print dictionaries

More about print dictionaries published by Oxford

Online dictionary services

OUP publishes a range of online dictionary and reference services including:

  • The Oxford English Dictionary Online (OED)
  • Oxford Dictionaries, our modern English dictionary site

What are the main differences between the OED and Oxford Dictionaries?

The OED and the dictionaries in Oxford Dictionaries are themselves very different. While Oxford Dictionaries focuses on the current language and practical usage, the OED shows how words and meanings have changed over time.

The dictionary content in Oxford Dictionaries focuses on current English and includes modern meanings and uses of words. Where words have more than one meaning, the most important and common meanings in modern English are given first, and less common and more specialist or technical uses are listed below. The OED, on the other hand, is a historical dictionary and it forms a record of all the core words and meanings in English over more than 1,000 years, from Old English to the present day, and including many obsolete and historical terms. Meanings are ordered chronologically in the OED, according to when they were first recorded in English, so that senses with the earliest evidence of usage appear first and more recent senses appear further down the entry – like a ‘family tree’ for each word.

Both the OED and Oxford Dictionaries contain a wealth of evidence from real English to show how words are used in context. In the OED each word meaning is illustrated by a set of quotations, spanning perhaps many centuries, from the earliest recorded appearance to the most recent recorded usages. In Oxford Dictionaries, the evidence is derived from the 2.3 billion word Oxford English Corpus, a huge databank of 21st century English, and each word sense in the dictionary is linked to a set of sentences so you can see how people are using the language today.

If you are looking for practical help or advice on how to use English in writing and speaking today, then Oxford Dictionaries will provide you with the information you need. If you’re also interested in how our language has developed over time or want to dig deeper into its origins or variations around the world, then the OED is the definitive resource.