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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Murray family

‘Dr. Murray, Oxford’: a remarkable Editor

Dictionaries never simply spring into being, but represent the work and research of many. Only a select few of the people who have helped create the Oxford English Dictionary, however, can lay claim to the coveted title ‘Editor’. In the first of an occasional series on the Editors of the OED, Peter Gilliver introduces the […]

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Word stories: ‘rum’

Word stories: 'rum'

The word rum is first recorded in 1654 in the Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, where it is mentioned along with another of its names kill-devil: Berbados Liquors, commonly called Rum, Kill Deuill, or the like. The word itself is of obscure origin, being somehow related to rumbullion and rumbustion, words whose origins […]

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From ‘carbonation’ to ‘navy blue’: which words came to life 200 years ago?

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If the dawning of the New Year invariably brings you to brood upon the inexorable march of time, you find yourself in good company. Here at the Oxford English Dictionary, we are very aware of how what society does—and even how society thinks—is much informed by the movement from past to present, and onward into […]

A profusion of words

A profusion of words

Please note: several of the following links to dictionary content require subscriber access to the OED Online. The early modern period was an era of great change for the English language. According to the OED’s record, the number of words ‘available’ to speakers of English more than doubled between 1500 and 1650. Many of the new words […]

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Automotive nostalgia

Automotive nostalgia

A few weeks ago, when a character on TV mentioned his DeSoto, my daughter asked, “What’s a DeSoto?” “A car,” I answered, choking on my realization that there was no reason for a 25-year-old to have heard of a DeSoto. But I had actually ridden in a DeSoto—and not in an antique car parade. The […]

letters

Ask a lexicographer: part 2

Every now and again, we like to share a few of the very interesting questions sent to us by users of Oxford Dictionaries. Read on to learn more about the peculiarities of the English alphabet and dictionary history. The dictionary speaks Answer: One could argue that dictionaries are called as such because they tell the […]

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Ye Gods! Praise the Days

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In this last week of December 2012, I am gazing at the calendar above my desk and wondering how it is possible that in a few days I will have to hang up a new calendar for a new year (as my past gets longer, are the years getting shorter??). My mind wanders as I […]

Hip-hop on ‘ice’

Hip-hop on ‘ice’

This week the Oxford English Dictionary published their final quarterly update for 2012. Among the recently revised entries is the noun ice, which has got me thinking about the lyrics of “Thrift Shop”, a song by the hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Check it out: I’m just pumped, I bought some sh*t from a thrift shop. Ice […]

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