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.
You, or your library or an institution to which you are affiliated, must have a current subscription to sign in to OED Online.
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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 (usually $295) from 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:
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.
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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?
If your institution uses Eduserv’s Athens service, follow the link to sign in via your institution to reach your Athens sign in area.
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
Please follow the relevant links below to reset your password:
Every 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 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:
The information about a contribution should always include:
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:
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 dictionaries in ODO are themselves very different. While ODO focuses on the current language and practical usage, the OED shows how words and meanings have changed over time. Click here for more information.
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.
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:
What settings should I have on my browser?
Generally, OED Online will perform best with your browser’s default settings.
The 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.
OED Online is best viewed with a minimum screen resolution of 1024×768, although it will also work at higher and lower resolutions.
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.
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
Add Oxford English Dictionary to your search menu
Right-click in the address bar and select ‘Edit search engines’. In the fields at the bottom, add:
Search by typing ‘OED
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.
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.
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