Help

Welcome to the Help for OED Online. This user’s guide contains all you need to know about using the OED, including the Historical Thesaurus of the OED (HTOED).

It is written for readers who have a subscription to the full content, but please note that you can access the help text and other sections on the site without charge and without any need to login. For readers who have full access rights either individually or through your institution, once you have logged in you will be taken to the site http://www.oed.com, where you can access the full functionality described below.

Using the help

You can access this guide at any time by clicking the Help link, which can be found within the About tab at the top of the page.

About the OED

You can find detailed information about the OED here.

How to subscribe to the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary is available by subscription to institutions and individuals.

To celebrate the OED‘s 90th birthday, we are pleased to offer annual individual OED subscriptions at a reduced rate of $90 in the US (usually $295)  or £90 for the Rest of the World (usually £215) for annual subscriptions taken out between 1 April 2018 until 31 March 2019. For this annual rate, you’ll have full unrestricted access to the OED Online – including quarterly updates!

You can also find out more about our Developing Countries Initiative.

 


Individuals: customers outside North and South America

An individual subscription to the OED Online offers unrestricted access to more than 1,000 years of the English language.

How to order

To subscribe online and take advantage of our 90th birthday offer, please visit our personal subscription shop and use the promotional code OED90.

Details about individual OED subscriptions:

  • Available for personal use only.
  • Offers a single user name and password that must not be shared.
  • Users must sign in each time they wish to access the service.
  • Users can access the service from any computer, providing the correct user name and password are entered.
  • For complete pricing information or subscription enquiries, please use the contact form or contact the OUP customer service team Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm GMT using the details below.Online Products,
    Oxford University Press,
    Great Clarendon Street, Oxford,
    OX2 6DP,
    United KingdomTel:</b/>+44(0) 1865 353705Fax: +44 (0) 1865 353659Email: onlineproducts@oup.com


Individuals: inside North and South America

An individual subscription to the OED Online offers unrestricted access to more than 1,000 years of the English language.

How to order

To subscribe online and take advantage of our 90th birthday offer, please visit our personal subscription shop.

Details about individual OED subscriptions:

  • Available for personal use only.
  • Offers a single user name and password that must not be shared.
  • Users must sign in each time they wish to access the service.
  • Users can access the service from any computer, providing the correct user name and password are entered.
  • For complete pricing information or subscription enquiries, please use the contact details below.

 

Love the OED, but can’t commit to a full year subscription? You can also enjoy access to the OED Online on a monthly basis. For a low monthly rate of $29.95, this is great value with no commitment.*

Gift subscriptions are now available for your word-loving friends and family. Choose either a 6-month or an annual gift subscription. Recipients will receive a personalized e-mail letting them know about the fantastic gift you have arranged for them!

  • Order a monthly or annual subscription now
  • Order a gift subscription now
  • For more information or subscription inquiries, please contact the OUP customer service team Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm EST using the details below.Customer Support – Online Subscriptions
    Oxford University Press
    198 Madison Avenue
    New York, NY 10016
    USATel: 1 800 334 4249 ext 6484Fax: 1 212 726 6476Email: oxfordonline@oup.com* Monthly and annual subscriptions are available to individuals by prepaid subscription for personal use only. 


Institutions

Annual subscriptions are available for institutions. Register now for a free 30-day trial and to request pricing information. If you have any other queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Accessing the OED

Accessing the OED via a personal subscription

If you have your own subscription to OED Online, type your user name and password in the fields under Subscriber account. Please note that passwords are case-sensitive.

 


Accessing the OED via a subscribing institution

If you are signing in to OED Online from an institution which has a subscription, or if your institution uses a referring URL system, you should enter the site automatically.
If you are returned to the home page, please consult your system administrator or librarian.

Via a library

Many public, university, and institutional libraries across the world subscribe to the OED Online. Speak to your librarian to find out whether your library subscribes.

Nearly all public libraries in England, Scotland, and Wales subscribe to the OED Online. This means you can access the dictionary, free, via your local library. find out more

Most libraries also offer ‘remote access’. This means that, if you are a member of your local library, you can access the OED Online for free anywhere you have internet access. Just enter your library membership number (on your library card) in the box provided under Library account. If you encounter difficulties entering the site using your library card number, please consult your librarian.

If your library doesn’t subscribe, does your librarian know about our free trials?

Via Athens

If your institution uses Eduserv’s Athens service, follow the link to sign in via your institution to reach your Athens sign in area.

Via Shibboleth

If your institution uses Shibboleth to access its resources, follow the link to sign in via your institution, select your institution from the dropdown list, and then enter your details within your institution’s sign in area.

 


Problems with accessing the OED

Forgotten passwords

Please follow the relevant links below to reset your password:

  • I live in North or South America
  • I live outside North and South America
  • Timing outEvery time you sign in to OED Online you begin a session – a period during which the subscription system recognizes you as a user. If you sign out, close your browser, spend some time in the public pages of the site, or simply do nothing on the OED Online site for a while, your session will time out. If this happens, you will be asked to sign in again. If you are using your own computer, you can minimize the inconvenience by setting your browser to remember your credentials, for example by accepting the offer to remember your username and password.

How to use the OED

An detailed guide to the tools available through the OED can be found here.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a word qualify for inclusion in the OED?

The OED requires several independent examples of the word being used, and also evidence that the word has been in use for a reasonable amount of time. The exact time-span and number of examples may vary: for instance, one word may be included on the evidence of only a few examples, spread out over a long period of time, while another may gather momentum very quickly, resulting in a wide range of evidence in a shorter space of time. We also look for the word to reach a level of general currency where it is unselfconsciously used with the expectation of being understood: that is, we look for examples of uses of a word that are not immediately followed by an explanation of its meaning for the benefit of the reader. We have a large range of words under constant review, and as items are assessed for inclusion in the dictionary, words which have not yet accumulated enough evidence are kept on file, so that we can refer back to them if further evidence comes to light.

 

What is a ‘non-word’?

It is something of a misnomer to call words not yet in the OED ‘non-words’. They are simply words that we have not included up to this point because we have not yet seen sufficient evidence of their usage. Some of these words may appear in other dictionaries which deal with current English, and which do not have an obligation to illustrate usage. The OED is unique, however, not only in never removing a word once it has been included, but also because we illustrate each entry with real evidence taken from a very wide range of print sources.

 

I’ve invented a word. Will you add it to the OED?

Many correspondents seem to regard getting a word into ‘the dictionary’ as a sure route to fame and even fortune. They are often disappointed to hear that the process of adding any new word, or a new sense of an existing word, is long and painstaking, and depends on the accumulation of a large body of published (preferably printed) citations showing the word in actual use over a period of at least ten years. Once a word is added to the OED it is never removed; OED provides a permanent record of its place in the language. The idea is that a puzzled reader encountering an unfamiliar word in, say, a 1920s novel, will be able to find the word in the OED even if it has been little used for the past fifty years. Our smaller dictionaries of current English, such as the Oxford Dictionary of English and the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, tend to include new vocabulary more rapidly. These dictionaries are designed to be as up to date as possible, and are frequently revised, but their new entries are usually based on the same solid body of evidence.

 

How can I best contribute to the dictionary?

We are always pleased to receive details of:

  • antedatings of words and senses;
  • variant forms not currently recorded;
  • new words and new senses of existing words.
  • The information about a contribution should always include:
  • date of publication;
  • author (of a book, but not a newspaper or journal article);
  • title of the work, with chapter and page reference;
  • a quotation long enough to show how the word is being used.
  • We prefer evidence drawn from print publications because it is more stable and therefore more easily re-traceable in the future.In general we do not need:
  • postdatings for first edition entries (we usually have evidence on file);
  • additional citations for revised entries;
  • quotations from famous authors (we can gather these from databases).
  • Contribute to the OED

How can I send evidence of a new word or sense to the OED?

We can assess examples of new words and senses that are not illustrated in the OED, providing the information is sent through the OED Online website, in the appropriate form. This captures the quotation and its accompanying citation details, and transmits the information in a format that our editing system can interpret, which therefore enables our editors to make use of the evidence.

 

How can I comment on the OED text?

The OED welcomes feedback on its editorial content. For this and all other enquiries, please go to the Contact us page.

 

Why are there no recent illustrative quotations for many words in common use?

If an entry goes back to the first edition of the OED (1884-1928) the quotation evidence will reflect the material available to the editors at the time of writing, and can be surprisingly close to the date of publication. Extra evidence was added to some entries during work on the OED Supplement (published 1972-86), but many entries written for the Supplement are now also in need of updating. As we revise the text we always add later evidence when it is available. If it is not, we may need to consider adding an Obsolete label. We do this when we have failed to find usage evidence later than 1900. Contributors have been sending us postdatings for over a century now, and all this material is in our files ready for use by the revisers.

 

Why are there no OED entries for people, places, or events?

In common with most British dictionaries, the OED has never included entries for names, except where the name has acquired an extended or allusive sense: wellington boot, Honiton lace, Armageddon. The names of fictional characters or beings are only included if there is evidence of extended use: Svengali, munchkin. On the other hand, the familiarity of many eponyms has concealed their origin in personal names: boycott, mackintosh.

 

Why does the OED spell verbs such as organize and recognize in this way?

The suffix -ize comes ultimately from the Greek verb stem -izein. In both English and French, many words with this ending have been adopted (usually via Latin), and many more have been invented by adding the suffix to existing words. In modern French the verb stem has become -iser, and this may have encouraged the use of -ise in English, especially in verbs that have reached English via French. The -ise spelling of verbs is now very common in British use, and Oxford dictionaries published in the UK generally show both forms where they are in use, but give -ize first as it reflects both the origin and the pronunciation more closely, while indicating that -ise is an allowable variant. Usage varies across the English-speaking world, so it is important to record both spellings where they exist. There are a number of verbs with only one accepted spelling – advise and capsize, for example. This is not just perverse: they have different etymologies. The important thing is that people should be consistent in the form they use in a given document.

 

Why does the OED hyphenate some compounds and not others?

In general, the forms shown are based on evidence available to the editors at the time the entry was prepared. If it is a first edition entry, that evidence may lie more than a century in the past, and use of the hyphen has greatly decreased over the past century. The process can often be observed in the illustrative quotations, even in an old entry such as today, which in the past was normally written with a hyphen or as two separate words. Forms shown in revised entries reflect modern evidence based on OED‘s quotation files and text corpora.

 

What’s the difference between the OED and Oxford Dictionaries?

The OED and the English dictionaries in oxforddictionaries.com are very different.

Oxforddictionaries.com focuses on current language and practical usage, while the OED shows how words and meanings have changed over time.

In oxforddictionaries.com, where words have more than one meaning the most important and common meanings are given first, with less common and more specialist or technical uses coming later in the entry. In the OED, on the other hand, meanings are ordered chronologically, starting with their first recorded use. The OED is a record of all the core words and meanings in the English language dating from over 1,000 years ago or more to the present day, including many obsolete and historical terms.

Both the OED and oxforddictionaries.com show how words are used in context. In the OED, each sense of a word is illustrated by quotations, sometimes spanning many centuries, from the earliest recorded appearance onwards. In oxforddictionaries.com, the English language evidence is illustrated by real-world sentences derived — from the 10 billion-word Oxford English Corpus, a huge databank of 20th and 21st century English — to show how English is used today.

The OED is the definitive resource for understanding how the English language has developed over time, or for digging deeper into its origins or variations around the world. Oxforddictionaries.com offers practical help and advice on writing and speaking, not just in English but also multiple other languages.

The OED contains links to Oxford Dictionaries. Do I need a subscription to this resource in order to use these links?

No, all links will take you through to the free dictionary.

 

Why aren’t the Historical Thesaurus categories in alphabetical order?

The order of subcategories is usually intended to reflect a perceived logical order or order of significance – this order can appear somewhat arbitrary on first impression. For example, many sets of subcategories include ‘other types’ or ‘miscellaneous kinds’, which comes at the end of the set. If strictly alphabetized, these would come in the middle of the list, which would look even stranger.

 

How should I cite the OED Online?

By popular request, there is now a cite button on each page which you can click to be shown complete citations for the entry in MLA and Chicago styles. There are also tools to export to a range of bibliography software.

 

Technical matters

Browsers and settings

Will OED Online work with my browser?

Most modern browsers running in Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux should perform well with OED Online, including:

  • Firefox version 4 and above
  • Safari version 5 and above
  • Internet Explorer version 9 and above
  • Google Chrome version 10 and above.
  • What settings should I have on my browser?Generally, OED Online will perform best with your browser’s default settings.
    To log into OED Online, your browser must be set to accept cookies. To use many of its features you must have JavaScript turned on.Text sizeThe site works best with your browser’s default text size setting of medium, or with a one step increase or decrease. It will also work reliably at larger text sizes. At the very largest text sizes, some features in the navigation area at the top of the screen and in the grey navigation bar may have become so large that they are partially hidden behind each other. All these features will continue to work, as long as they are at least partially visible.Screen resolutionOED Online is best viewed with a minimum screen resolution of 1024×768, although it will also work at higher and lower resolutions.

     

Accessibility

Wherever possible, OED Online meets Conformance level A (Priority 2) of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). We have tried to avoid the use of non-W3C formats, and have run Bobby validation for Priority 2 accessibility. Where we have not been able to make a particular feature more accessible, we have tried to ensure that it degrades gracefully.

Please contact us if you believe barriers remain.

Navigation using your keyboard

You can move around each screen by using your TAB key to move from each area of the page to the next, and then each link, button, or entry field on the page to the next. Shift + TAB moves in the opposite direction. Drop-down menus unfold when you use the up and down arrows, and the return key acts as a mouse click: it will activate buttons and follow links.

 


Look up tools

Add Oxford English Dictionary to your browser

With this feature, you can highlight a word in any web site, click the ‘Search Oxford English Dictionary’ button on your browser toolbar, and your browser window will display the results of a Quick Search for the selected text.

Please note that you need to have JavaScript enabled to add the Search Oxford English Dictionary button on to your browser.

Internet Explorer

Place your mouse cursor over the following link: Search Oxford English Dictionary

  • Click the right mouse button and select ‘Add to Favorites …’
  • Click ‘Yes’ to continue (our code is safe)
  • In the ‘Add a Favorite’ dialog, select ‘Favorites bar’ in the ‘Create in‘ menu, then click ‘Add’.
  • If you cannot see your Favorites toolbar, go to the Tools » Toolbars menu, then click on ‘Favorites Bar’. If you can see your Favorites toolbar but not the Oxford English Dictionary button, drag the toolbar across your screen to make more of the toolbar visible.Firefox and Chrome
  • Drag this onto your toolbar: Search Oxford English Dictionary
  • Add Oxford English Dictionary to your search menuFirefox
  • Go to www.oed.com.
  • Click on the + icon in the search menu and click ‘Add Oxford English Dictionary’
  • ChromeRight-click in the address bar and select ‘Edit search engines’. In the fields at the bottom, add:
  • oed.com
  • OED
  • http://www.oed.com/search?searchType=dictionary&q=%s
  • Search by typing ‘OED ’ into the address bar.


The OED API

We are currently working on an API for the OED. To find out more, test our prototype, and tell us which features you would like, please visit our API site.

Purchasing the print OED and Historical Thesaurus

The Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition) is available to buy as a twenty-volume set or in a single-volume compact edition. The three-volume Additions Series is also available.

 

UK and Europe

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United States

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Australia and New Zealand

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Rest of the world

For other regions, please refer to your nearest office.

The OED CD-ROM

The OED CD-ROM was originally released in 1992 and, although we have updated the content and the software several times since then, it will not function on the new operating systems currently being developed.

As such, we made the decision to discontinue the CD-ROM in 2017. However, subscriptions to the OED Online are available as an alternative. Information about subscriptions can be found here.

 

Benefits of OED Online include:

 

  • Our most up-to-date Oxford English Dictionary content, with new words, senses, pronunciations, and definitions added quarterly.
  • The Historical Thesaurus of the OED, which lets you explore the evolution of concepts of senses over time.
  • Timelines and Categories to help you discover when words entered the English language by subject, region, or language of origin.
  • Our Sources section, which allows you to trace the roles particular writers played in shaping the language.
  • A more advanced search option, including options to search by subject index, region, language of origin, register, and date of entry, as well as the ability to restrict results to an entry letter or range, a more flexible proximity search, and more full-text options when performing a Boolean search.
  • Hundreds of pages of secondary content, including an OED Archives section, quarterly update release notes, and much more.