Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Oxford Dictionaries

Articles by Oxford Dictionaries


A penny for your thoughts …

Penny

According to some, today is ‘Lucky Penny Day’. The OED describes a ‘lucky penny’ as usually one that is bent or perforated, or sometimes an old or foreign coin. In the early nineteenth century, a ‘luck-penny’ was defined as ‘the cash which the seller gives back to the buyer after the latter has paid him; […]

Has the culture of the ‘celeb’ begun to decline?

Paparazzi

The Oxford English Corpus, our unique two-billion word database of real twenty-first century English, shows that the use of celebrity has risen steadily since the year 2000 – but the use of the informal abbreviation celeb has dropped since 2006. Perhaps this suggests that the public may be starting to tire of these trashy, wannabe, […]

Goals galore but no parrots: a hundred-word football vocabulary

hundred-word football vocabulary

Fabio Capello, the Italian-born England football manager, was recently reported as saying that he could manage his players with just one hundred words of English. At the time there was much speculation as to which hundred words he would need to achieve this, and the BBC contacted Oxford Dictionaries for a list of the 100 […]

Word trends: stuff

Pie

The e-commerce site Amazon has a section titled ‘Where’s My Stuff?’ to help customers find out about undelivered orders. The use of such a vague, casual term in a corporate context is an example of the growing acceptance of informality in Internet language, but stuff was not always such a vague or informal term. It dates […]

What do you call a baby owl

What do you call a baby owl and other baby animals?

We’re frequently asked whether there is a word for a specific baby animal in Oxford Dictionaries Online. The table below shows a list of animals with the name of the young animal next to it. Did you know, for example, that a baby eel is an elver, and a baby hare a leveret? Enjoy browsing […]

Inverted meanings: sick, bad, and wicked

Skater

A common trick of slang is to invert meanings, so that seemingly negative words are used as terms of approval. Bad and wicked are two established examples, although it may surprise you to see just how far back their positive uses go. The OED records ‘bad’ and ‘wicked’ used in a positive sense as long […]

Author? Author?

Gulliver's Travels

We might spend our days on the Net, but we all love books at Oxford Dictionaries Online. Here’s an interactive quiz in honour of World Book Day, which gives a selection of words to be matched up with the authors who invented them. Think that Oscar Wilde coined the word witticism? Click to play and […]

That’s so, like, totally random …

Random

In the 1990s teenagers called everything and everyone sad – but in the early 2000s this favourite word of disapproval was overtaken by random. In this second decade of the twenty-first century, even those well out of their teens can be heard using it. According to the OED, the ‘without method or conscious decision’ sense […]

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