The OED today

For well over 100 years that OED has told the history of the English language by reporting in detail on individual words. The First Edition of the dictionary (1884-1928) was published in ten (and then—after some rebalancing of the contents—in twelve) volumes. But the language keeps on growing. Each year there are more new words, and more information is discovered about old words.

At present the dictionary is undergoing its first thoroughgoing revision and update. Around 70 editors, mostly in Oxford and New York, review each word in turn, examining its meaning and history, noting where meanings have changed—or where old definitions no longer suffice—and recraft the entries in the light of the most up-to-date information. The result is the current online edition of the dictionary (in progress). The following pages give you some insights into how the editors work and how to ‘read’ the OED.

Rewriting the OED

A reader’s guide to today’s OED

  • Recent updates: the OED is updated four times a year. See the latest revised entries and new words added to the dictionary
  • Guide to the Third Edition of the OED: read the Guide to discover how the OED works. What is the structure of a dictionary entry? What are the key features of each entry? This Guide provides both basic background and a summary of some more advanced features.
  • Rewriting the OED: a step-by-step tour of the revised dictionary, with examples of entries before and after revision, along with a description of what has changed in each case. This is a single pdf file with separate sections for the major types of editorial change.
  • Preface of the Third Edition of the OED: there has been a revolution in dictionary practice since the First Edition of the dictionary was published between 1884 and 1928. This Preface looks at how today’s editors approach their work: what they are aiming to achieve and the materials they have at their disposal to help them with their work. It finishes by listing a number of ‘myths’ about the OED and about language, which often confound dictionary readers.
  • The OED and innovation: a summary of the evolution of the OED, from the Victorian period to present day, that shows how visionaries and technology worked together to modernize English lexicography
  • Tools for reading the OED:
  • New video shorts: a series of videos now live examines how the OED is produced behind the scenes.

Using the OED Online

The OED and Oxford Dictionaries Online