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James Murray

Rewriting the OED

Today’s OED offices in Oxford and New York are a hive of lexicographical activity. Over seventy editors work on updating the text of the dictionary for its Third Edition (2000-). Every three months the entire OED database is republished online, with new words added for the first time and older entries revised according the exacting […]

Dictionary Editors

In this section we give brief biographies of the chief editors of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Dictionary Facts

First Edition Proposed size: 4 volumes, 6,400 pages (with provision for ‘a larger dictionary containing not fewer than 10 volumes, each containing not less than 1,600 pages’) Actual size: 10 volumes, 15,490 pages Proposed time to complete: 10 years Actual time to complete: 70 years (from approval date) Publication date: 1884-1928 in 128 fascicles. Published […]

Dictionary Milestones

A chronology of events relevant to the history of the OED Dictionary milestones in reverse chronological order 1857  At the suggestion of Frederick J. Furnivall, the Philological Society of London establishes ‘a Committee to collect unregistered words in English’. Richard Chenevix Trench delivers a paper On some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries to the Society. […]

‘Ware man-traps: rethinking an OED entry

When revising an OED entry, one often ends up thinking about the meaning not only of the word in question but also of the entry itself—what, in other words, was intended by the editor who originally put it together? Even the shortest entry may have involved dozens of editorial decisions, and, under the scrutiny of […]

Place names in the Oxford English Dictionary

Problems with place As any Scrabble player knows, dictionaries of English tend not to include entries for names—of people, organizations, or places. For the lexicographer names in general, and place names in particular, pose all kinds of problems. To begin with, a place name cannot really be defined. A common noun denotes a class of […]

January 1880 Appeal

Welcome to the facsimile text of the third edition of James Murray’s Appeal to the English-speaking and English-reading public, issued in June 1879. The first and second editions are also available here. Although the three Appeal editions are essentially the same text, it is fascinating to trace the progress and development of the early phase […]