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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

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 […]

Trout pout, misery memoir, and Nollywood: ODO quarterly update August 2011

Talking dog

Every quarter, we update the current English dictionary in Oxford Dictionaries Online with new words and meanings that have made it into common usage. For this update, we’ve added dozens of words, from aha moment to yuck factor. You might do a fist pump (on your own) or a more subtle fist bump (with someone […]

To describe or prescribe, that is the question (with apologies to Shakespeare)

prescriptive or descriptive

Regular readers of this blog may remember a recent poll in which we posed the following question: Do you think dictionaries should: Describe language as it is being used Prescribe how language should be used Be a mixture of prescriptive and descriptive The results were as follows: 70.27 % were in favour of a mixture, […]

From telegraphese to texting: one hundred years of the Concise Oxford Dictionary

100  years of the Concise Oxford Dictionary

Part of the fascination of investigating the story of a dictionary which has achieved its centenary is to find windows which open on to very different worlds. It was particularly enjoyable, through files, letters, and papers, to meet the early editors of what was to become such an iconic book. Henry Fowler: ‘a pleasant occupation’ […]

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