The Oxford English Dictionary is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over half a million words, both present and past.
It traces the usage of words through 2.5 million quotations from a wide range of international English language sources, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.
The OED is a historical dictionary that covers words from across the English-speaking world, from North America to South Africa, from Australia and New Zealand to the Caribbean. It also offers the best in etymological analysis and in listing of variant spellings, and it shows pronunciation using the International Phonetic Alphabet.
When the members of the Philological Society of London decided, in 1857, that existing English language dictionaries were incomplete and deficient, and called for a complete re-examination of the language from Anglo-Saxon times onward, they knew they were embarking on an ambitious project. However, even they didn’t realize the full extent of the work they initiated, or how long it would take to achieve the final result.
The project proceeded slowly after the Society’s first grand statement of purpose. Eventually, in 1879, the Society made an agreement with the Oxford University Press and James A. H. Murray to begin work on a New English Dictionary
The new dictionary was planned as a four-volume, 6,400-page work that would include all English language vocabulary from the Early Middle English period onward, plus some earlier words if they had continued to be used into Middle English.
Murray and his team did manage to publish the first part in 1884, but much more comprehensive work was required so over the next four decades work on the Dictionary continued and new editors joined the project. Murray now had a large team directed by himself, Henry Bradley, W.A. Craigie, and C.T. Onions. These men worked steadily, producing fascicle after fascicle until finally, in April, 1928, the last volume was published.
It is very different from that of a dictionary of current English, in which only present-day senses are covered, and in which the most common meanings or senses are described first. For each word in the OED, the various groupings of senses are dealt with in chronological order according to the quotation evidence. In a complex entry with many strands, the development over time can be seen in a structure with several ‘branches’.
In 1992 the Oxford English Dictionary again made history when a CD-ROM edition of the work was published. Suddenly a massive, twenty-volume work that takes up four feet of shelf space and weighs 150 pounds is reduced to a slim, shiny disk that takes up virtually no space and weighs just a few ounces.
The Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM has been a great success. The electronic format has revolutionized the way people use the Dictionary to search and retrieve information. Complex investigations into word origins or quotations that would have been impossible to conduct using the print edition now take only a few seconds. Because the electronic format makes the Oxford English Dictionary so easy to use, its audience now embraces all kinds of interested readers beyond the confines of the scholarly community.
The OED alows you to findthe word or phrase you need in the full text of the dictionary, or in selected areas sch as quotations or etymolgies.
- To loo up a word or phrase, simply type into the box, hit return or click the magnifying glass.You can use wildcards in all searches.
- Entry Version, gives the version and publication date of the entry. A button links to an earlier version of the entry when available.
- Full Text Search:Type a word or phrase into the box to find it in the full text of the Dictionary,or in a selected area from the drop-down list.
- More Options: Search for two words or phrases occurring near each other.
- List by Entry
- List by Date
Entry Versions & Fast Searching
OED Online enables you to see how an entry has changed over time.
A unique feature of OED Online is the ability to see what both of these different texts said about a word, and to compare them at the click of a button.
Every entry is labelled with date of publication and a description of which text it is from, so that its status can be clearly seen.
In the case of those entries which have already been revised and had new research incorporated, a ‘Revised draft’ version will be available. These draft entries have not been previously published, and may be altered in the future if further relevant material comes to light.
To help you look up the words you want, the site offers several different ways to search.
The most straightforward is the simple Find Word search, available at the top right-hand corner of every page. This restricts the search to the defined words and phrases.
Simply enter the word you’re looking for, click Find Word, and the entry will be displayed if there is a single match, or a results list will be displayed if there is more than one match.
Specific Search & Phrase Search
To search for references to the word ‘ghost’ in the titles of quoted works, enter ‘ghost’ into the search box, select ‘quotation work’ from the pull-down list, and click Start Search.
This produces the following results list from the Second Edition, which includes links to the entries containing the quotations, as well as direct links into the body of the quotations themselves, surrounded by a little context to show where the word ‘ghost’ has been found.
Just as with the Find Word facility, where you could enter a word, phrase, or pattern with wildcards, so you may also search anywhere in the different text areas or in the whole Dictionary text for occurrences of a phrase which interests you.
So to find variations on phrases such as mad as a hatter or mad as a March hare, type ‘mad as a’ in the first search box, using ‘full text’ as the selected area, to see how inventively this formula has been used.
As usual, the results list appears:
Oxford English dictionary. Retrieved : 15 march, 2010, 21:11 from http://www.oed.com/about/
Oxford English Dictionary. Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia. Retrieved: 15 march, 2010, 21:30 from http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Dictionary
Oxford English dictionaries Online (OLDO). Retrieved: 1o may, 2010, 19:47 from http://www.wordreference.com/english/OLDO-es.aspx
The Concise Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus. Retrieved: 10 may, 2010, 19:50 from http://www.babylon.com/dictionary/oxford/?id=227&tree=5&level=3