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100 defining World War I terms

OED WW1 timeline

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) World War I timeline shows some of the ways in which the events of the First World War left their mark on the English language. For example, the wet and muddy conditions of the first winter of trench warfare were evoked in the term Flanders mud (November 1914), while trench boots and trench coats (both December 1914) were invented to cope with these conditions. By early 1915 the physical and psychological effects of trench warfare were being felt: both trench foot and shell shock are first recorded in January 1915.

One linguistically important event was the involvement of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli (1915), which led to the coinage or spread of terms such as Anzac (April 1915), Aussie (1915 as a noun), and the Anzacs’ affectionate term for a British soldier, choom (June 1916).

The timeline also highlights developments in military technology, such as the introduction of the tank in 1916. Particularly significant was the advancement of aerial warfare, seen in coinages such as anti-aircraft and Archie (both 1914), Zeppelining, (1916), and tailspin (1916).

Other clusters of words tell other stories, and you can explore these by clicking on any of the flags. Each word has one or more early illustrative sentences. You can see the first known use of each word by clicking ‘Read more’, which will take you to the OED entry; the entries for all 100 words have been made free to non-subscribers.

Click on the link below to access the timeline. Use the left and right arrows to scroll through the timeline or zoom in using the magnifying glass and drag the timeline flags from right to left to advance.

Visit the 100 words that define the First World War timeline

Visit the OED’s First World War Centenary hub

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