Historical Dictionary of American Slang

Lighter, J. E., ed. Historical Dictionary of American Slang. Two vols. New York: Random House, 1994-97.

An invaluable source for non-standard, American words and phrases beginning with A–O. A historical dictionary, the HDAS provides comprehensive citations of usage that outline each term’s history. It is a superb supplement to the OED, correcting two innate biases in the first two editions of that dictionary, giving short shrift to American usage and to slang terms. Even though it is incomplete, it is an invaluable resource.

The first two volumes were published by Random House. When that publisher folded its dictionary division, the project was abandoned. Oxford University Press acquired the rights and the database that underlies the dictionary, but is not continuing the project.

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