Changes to the way an entry’s editing history is shown online

Changes to the way an entry’s editing history is shown online

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is one of the largest ongoing humanities projects in the world, and the largest dictionary of English, comprising a comprehensive description of the development of the language from around 1000 to the present day. The first edition of the OED was published between 1884 and 1928 and further supplementary volumes were published in 1933 and between 1972 and 1986. All of this, comprising more than 60 million words of text and 600,000 senses, was published in 1989 as the Second Edition.

A full revision of the OED for its Third Edition began in the late 1990s. Like the first edition, this is a large-scale, long-term undertaking: as well as adding new words and senses, we are updating the entire text of the dictionary. As of 2012, about one third of the work is done.

The scope of the OED’s work and the diversity of its content mean that anyone searching the dictionary may retrieve entries that have been updated along with entries which are still unrevised, some of which have not been rewritten since the late 19th century. We’ve been aware for a while now that it is not always easy for the reader to distinguish visually between revised and unrevised entries on-screen. With this release we have altered the way in which this information is presented across the OED database, in order to make the distinction clearer.

The information may be found on the beige panel to the right of each entry. Here are some examples of the old and new styles.

For revised entries the first format below has been replaced by the second (example – motto):

For entries currently unrevised the equivalent formats are (example – slogan)

Clicking on the new link to ‘Publication history’ brings up a pop-up which summarizes the key dates in the editorial and publication history of the entry, ordered chronologically.

For a revised entry, the popup looks like this:

For an unrevised entry, the popup looks like this:

The Entry profile (previously called About this entry) links to a page summarizing the content of an entry: the age and origin of the word, the chronological range and distribution of illustrative quotation evidence, information about other related and linked entries, and so on.

Finally, previous version links to the version of the same entry as it appeared in the 1989 Second Edition of the OED. With an unrevised entry, the previous version and the current version will be substantially the same entry, though small changes to pronunciation and bibliographical details may appear:

The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.