UK KS3, US grade 6-8
Lesson 1 – Introduction to Dictionary work
- Have you ever heard of the Oxford English Dictionary?
- If you wanted to look up a spelling, what would be best?
- An online dictionary
- A small pocket dictionary
- A big multi-volume dictionary
- What advantages are there in having an online dictionary rather than a paper version?
- Can a paper dictionary tell you how to pronounce words?
- Can an online dictionary tell you how to pronounce words?
- Are dictionaries likely to include “modern” words or uses of words that you tend to use with friends?
The Oxford English Dictionary Online
Log in to the dictionary at
Once you know the basics of the online dictionary, spend some time becoming familiar with it. Look up words and feel free to explore the buttons and links; a good starting point might be the help files.
As part of your exploration, do the following little task:
Look up the word chill in a simple quick search:
How many results are there for the word chill?
In the advanced search mode, search for chill in definition, then select “NOT” cool, then choose add row and select “NOT” cold, both in full text.
What has happened to the number of entries and why?
In the last few minutes, answer the question:
“What does the OED online offer to users that you did not realise was there at the beginning of the lesson?”
Write your answers as bullet points.
Find out what you can about Received Pronunciation.
Lesson 2 – Using the OED Online
Parts of speech
What do the following abbreviations mean, as used in a dictionary?
Tick the words you would expect to find in a dictionary. Some of them have several meanings; so the word itself is probably in the dictionary, but is it in with the meaning given here?
- muggle (meaning a non-magical person)
- nadder (meaning a snake)
- nuncle (meaning your mum’s or dad’s brother)
- mobile (meaning a phone)
- text (used as a verb, meaning to communicate)
- radical (meaning amazing or cool)
- cool (meaning that you approve of something)
- snotty (meaning bad-tempered)
- hang (a verb meaning to spend time with your friends)
You will now know that all the words are in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) Online.
Now try to link the definitions labelled 1 to 13 below with the following words:
- A verb meaning to throw violently
- A noun meaning the worship of words
- A noun meaning a small spot or pimple
- A noun meaning a creepy person
- A noun meaning support for the Church of England as the National church
- An adjective meaning false
- A noun meaning the jaw
- A noun meaning something you put in your mouth to make your cheeks look fatter
- A noun meaning to count something as worthless
- An adjective meaning wonderful
- A noun meaning an idiot
- A noun meaning a rogue
- A verb meaning to lie down
Lesson 3 – Looking up words
Use the OED Online dictionary to research and answer the following questions:
What is the earliest mention of this word?
How many different entries are there for this word? Include nouns and verbs.
Find and write down all four main definitions of this word.
Make use of the quotations provided and write down the earliest recorded use of the word.
Why does the most recent definition have a capital “M”?
nadder and nuncle
Search for the word nadder. Can you see why you are taken to the entry for nadder in adder? Can you work out why the word nadder changed to adder over time?
Now look at the n.nuncle; how is its relationship with the word uncle slightly different?
Can you read the Middle English (the language of Chaucer)?
Can you see any letters of the alphabet that were used in Middle English that are not used today?
Try re-reading the early definitions, substituting the unusual letters with the sound “th”. Does it make any more sense now?
Look up the use of this word as a verb.
Is to text a modern expression? What is the earliest use you can find?
Look up the use of the word as a verb. Use the “About this entry” link to the right of the definition. How many numbered definitions are there?
Go to the bottom of the page where you will find the additional definitions published since September 2003.
When was hang first used with the meaning “to loiter/do nothing”?
Think of some words that you use which have not found their way into the dictionary in the way you use them.
Lesson 4 – Making use of vocabulary
Spend twenty minutes looking for some obscure or very long and little-used words in the OED. Six should be enough.
Make a note of the words and their meanings, to share with others later.
You are to use these words in a short piece of writing entitled “A most unusual person”.
This is to be a conversation between two or more people, one of whom uses language in a strange way. You are to try and make the personality of this character come through by the way he/she speaks. The character can be:
- A show-off
- A highly educated person who can’t communicate in any other way
- Someone who has had a spell cast upon him/her
- A joker
- Any other type of person that suits you.
You will be told when to start your planning, how long it is to be, and how you will be assessed.