Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary Online; http://www.oed.com; Oxford University Press.

This is the single best source of information on the meaning, usage, and history of words in the English language. Oxford University Press publishes a variety of dictionaries and these smaller, but still excellent, dictionaries should not be confused with the comprehensive behemoth that is the OED.

The online version is the third or “New” edition of the venerable dictionary. The first tranche of third edition updates was published in March 2000. Updates are published quarterly. This third edition is the first complete revision of the dictionary. The site is a subscription site. The third edition updates are not available in print.

The first edition of the OED was published in fascicles from 1884-1928. It comprised ten volumes. A one-volume supplement was published in 1933 and a second supplement in 1972. The second edition was published in 1989. It comprises 20 volumes and is available online, on CD-ROM, and in a micro-printed one-volume edition. The second edition is not a complete revision—not all the entries in the first edition were updated. Three volumes of additions to the second edition were published between 1993-97.

An important caveat when using the OED is to always check when the individual entry was written and last updated. Many of the entries are over a century old and don’t reflect the latest scholarship. Older entries should be used with caution. When the third edition is complete this problem should be fixed, at least for a while.

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