What is the OED Online?


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The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words—past and present—from across the English-speaking world, tracing how they have changed over time. OED has its own, unique history as a living document.

In 2000, OED Online was launched as a digital companion to OED. It offers access to OED in its most recent version and is updated every three months to provide users with the results of the current research and revision of our editors.

Try some sample entries in OED Online: dictionary | English | digital | mammoth | galactico | ninja | palfrenier

You can find out more about the latest update to OED Online here. If you would like to contribute to these updates and revisions, please see our OED appeals page and see if you have any earlier evidence of usage of words currently being researched by the team.

Searching OED online

Most users will be familiar with the quick search and advanced search options on the homepage. OED online also offers other ways to browse the dictionary which may be more useful in some cases:

  • Categories. Explore the dictionary through groupings of words in, for instance, a subject or from a particular origin. If you want to find all the Japanese borrowings in English, or find the first word related to espionage to enter the dictionary, this is the function for you.
  • Timelines. Use our graphical timelines to find out the number of words that entered the OED in different time periods. Also combines with the categories function, so you can visually view trends in when those espionage words were first recorded in the OED by choosing a subject.
  • Sources. Discover the most common sources to be cited as example sentences in the dictionary. Some may surprise you!
  • Historical Thesaurus. Look up words or explore the subject options to find out historical synonyms. Search fear, for instance, and you’ll learn that in the 1400s, the word crainte was a synonym of today’s term fear

Other Features

OED online also has a host of fun and interactive features to enhance your enjoyment of the site and offer new ways to use the dictionary.

  • The OED in two minutes. An interactive map tracking the first recorded uses of words in English which originated in other languages.
  • Birthday words. Search your year of birth to find a word that was first recorded in the OED in your birthday year. If you subscribe to OED online, you can further search your date of birth to find a personal birthday word.
  • Word of the Day. Receive a daily email update of the OED Word of the Day.
  • Aspects of English. Read articles from OED editors and authors on interesting aspects of the English language, from the Geordie dialect to the first dictionaries in English to the history of the word mammoth, and much more.
  • Quizzes and Lesson Plans. Explore our inventory of lesson plans on the OED for Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, and A Level students, and take our quizzes to test your students on using OED online – do you know what the word robot means in South Africa?
  • My OED. Personalize your OED online account to save and manage entries and searches. 

More from OED online

Explore our social media sites for more from OED online

  • Find us on Twitter here
  • Our series of video shorts: explanations about how the OED is compiled, interviews with influential members of the team, word origins, and much more.
  • The OxfordWords blog; full of posts about the OED. Also take language quizzes, browse posts about contemporary language usage, and join the Oxford Dictionaries Community.

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Visit the help page or see if our frequently asked questions can solve your problem. If not, don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can resolve your queries.