S.O.S became the worldwide standard distress signal (particularly in maritime use) on 1 July 1908, having first been adopted by the German government three years earlier. It has since entered the awareness of those who are unlikely ever to summon help at sea – appearing in contexts as varied as the title of songs by […]
When this article was in the brainstorming stage, it started with the simple intention of pointing out that a ladybird was neither a bird nor a lady (I don’t mean to impugn the ladybird’s reputation; I am speaking of the definition rather than the insect’s moral character). Along the way we thought we’d point out […]
Any avid reader has their favourite characters, whether they be from classic fiction, much-loved children’s literature, or contemporary novels. Quite a few characters have given their names to words relating to their traits or appearance – Eeyoreish, for instance, appears in our dictionaries as an adjective meaning pessimistic or gloomy, based on Eeyore from A.A. […]
It is difficult to realize, from a distance of nearly a century, quite the impact that Sigmund Freud and his theories had upon polite society of the 1920s and ‘30s. The novelist D.H. Lawrence wrote that ‘the Oedipus complex was a household word, the incest motive a commonplace of tea-time chat’, and popular guides to […]
Your first thought, when you think of the magazine Good Housekeeping, might not be that it is a source for lexicographers. Founded in the US on 2 May 1885, it perhaps brings to mind recipes, health tips, and pieces about fashion – all of which is true, although you might not know that it has […]
It’s become a bit of a tradition at OxfordWords to set you quizzes about Shakespeare, and it’s a fitting celebration of his 450th birthday to do so again. In the past we’ve asked you to find out how Shakespearean you are, and whether you can spot the difference between Shakespeare and the Bible. We’ll go […]
National Scrabble Day was on 13 April, and it feels like a good opportunity to celebrate the wordiest of all games. Even if you’ve never played it – and, let’s face it, we’ve all played it – you’ll be familiar with the concept: players use seven letter tiles to create words on a board, intersecting […]
The 1920s wasn’t just a period of decadence and flappers in a post-war haze of happiness. While The Great Gatsby drew attention to a world of insouciant pleasure-seeking, the 1920s also saw plenty of words enter the language. Some seem apt for the era, some might surprise, and all twenty selected below have survived for […]
- Affect versus effect
- Grammar myths #2: please miss, can I start a sentence with a conjunction?
- Grammar myths #1: is it wrong to end a sentence with a preposition?
- Lie or lay? Laying down the law on some puzzling verbs
- OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year?
- Compliment or complement?
- Principle or principal?
- Rein or reign? Hold your horses before applying pen to paper…
- The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…
- Which classical character are you?
- Talking proper: the language of U and Non-U
- Feeling bright? 8 historical synonyms for ‘clever’
- Gallery: new quotations in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
- America’s war on language
- The peculiar history of cows in the OED
- How I created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones
- What do you call a group of…
- 20 words that originated in the 1920s
- How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?
- Infographic: a closer look at ‘selfie’
- What the Romans did for us: English words of Latin origin
- Why did Tolkien use archaic language?
Word of the Day: retroflex - turned backwards... oxford.ly/12928uF
ICYMI: Word of the Day: bimble - walk or travel at a leisurely pace... oxford.ly/1Dv8KRF
Do you know when to use 'continual' and when to use 'continuous'? Our help page clears up any doubt... oxford.ly/1fH4jHv