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

Seventy years young

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Borrowed words We all find at times that we reach for the words of others to express just what we want to say. Gleaming red berries through the fog of a September morning may remind the more literary of John Keats’s ‘season of mists, and mellow fruitfulness’. The Indian summer of 2011, on the other […]

It’s all about the nuance – synonyms and the Oxford English Corpus

It’s all about the nuance

There are few words that share an exact set of definitions – it is almost a guarantee that there will be some subtle differences between one word and its synonym.  Sometimes these nuances are so subtle that they can be difficult to articulate fully in a definition, and only become apparent through examining usage. Oxford […]

A bookworm is born

Win an iPod Shuffle: show us how well you know our dictionaries sites

Sarah Russo describes her first encounter with Oxford’s historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary. Visit OED online or find out more about the difference between the OED and Oxford Dictionaries Online. Let me tell you a story about a young girl who loved words and big, thick books and rainy days in which to explore […]

Which word is older?

Which word is older?

  As part of our occasional series, have a look at these five pairs of related words and see if you can guess which entered the language first. 1)      Telephone and annoyance 2)      Bodacious and badass 3)      Patriot and traitor 4)      Chauvinism and sexism 5)      Sexy and anaphrodisiac   Answers 1) It will perhaps come as […]

A journey through spin

A journey through spin

Spin is one of those words which could perhaps now do with a bit of ‘spin’ in its own right. From its beginnings in the idea of honest labour and toil (in terms of etymology, spin descends from the spinning of fabric or thread), it has come to suggest the twisting of words rather than […]

Mooselookmeguntic and Sopchoppy: America’s lakes and rivers

Early Great Lakes map

If you love words, chances are you have a favorite dictionary and probably a well-used thesaurus. Your bookshelves may hold some specialized resources as well – books about usage, idioms, puzzle solving, vocabulary building, rhyming, and so forth. If you have a particular fondness for words with an unusual flavor, you’ve probably browsed through books […]

How Shakespearean are you?

How Shakespearean are you?

The words of Shakespeare are still held, nearly 400 years after his death, to be some of the most poetic ever written and his influence on modern English is indisputable. Contributions such as pound of flesh (Merchant of Venice) and green-eyed monster (Othello) are fairly well-known, but did you know that he was the first […]

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Shifted meanings: flash mob

Pillow Fight

Flash mob is a relatively recent addition to Oxford Dictionaries Online. The phrase is defined in the World English version of the dictionary as “a public gathering of complete strangers, organized via the Internet or mobile phone, who perform a pointless act and then disperse again”, and with somewhat more brevity in the US version […]

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