Jonathan Dent

Jonathan Dent is an assistant editor on the OED.

Articles by Jonathan Dent

OED update notes

Words from all over the lot: notes on the OED update

It’s OED update time again, and as usual, we’ve got words from all over the lot for you, from a new-old sense of waterbuck (meaning an aquatic insect, possibly a pond-skater), recorded in a single thousand-year-old quotation, to a sense of waterball (‘a transparent inflatable sphere which can be propelled across water by a person […]


Capturing the interweb of words: more notes on the OED update

‘Have you heard of this new inter-web thingy?’ one character sarcastically asks of another  in a quotation recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary’s new entry for Interweb. The humorous power of this self-consciously incorrect mashup of a word lies in the fact that for many of us in 2015, the World Wide Web is often […]


The white stuff: notes on the OED update

It’s that time again, when we bring you the very latest in additions to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and, as usual, we have lexicographical facts and figures coming out of our ears. This quarterly OED update contains around 500 new words, phrases, and senses, spanning a period of nearly 1,100 years in the history […]


Words in the news: revenge porn

Last week, an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 made the sharing of what has become known as ‘revenge porn’ illegal in England and Wales. We’ve heard a great deal over the last three or four years about the growing problem of disgruntled former partners distributing revealing or sexually explicit photographs or […]


G’day, bitcoin, and un-PC: notes on the OED update

Links to entries in this post have been made available for a limited period. The online Oxford English Dictionary, at, is a subscription site; you can read the OED help pages for information about subscribing or how to access the site via an institution or your local library. G’day. It seems like the […]


Farmily album: the rise of the felfie

Words are patient things. They need to be: language change is often a slow process, measured, for the most part, in centuries and not months. A new word (a neologism), whether it enters English as a loanword, a borrowing from another language, or whether it is formed within English from pre-existing words and affixes, usually […]

Whale-horses and Morses: the Walrus in the OED

Whale-horses and morses: Tolkien and the walrus in the OED

With the once-in-a-lifetime visit by a young male walrus to the island of North Ronaldsay in Orkney making the news on 3 March, it seems like a good time to look back at the coincidence of one particularly famous Oxford lexicographer’s tussle with the history of the word ‘walrus’, and an earlier visit by a […]

Chaucer in the House of Fame

Chaucer in the House of Fame

By the time Geoffrey Chaucer died in 1400, he had been living for almost a year in obscurity in a house in the precincts of Westminster Abbey, and on his death he was buried in a modest grave in the church’s south transept. The poet’s last few months had not been his happiest. At the […]

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