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

Category: Dictionaries and lexicography

Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (part 2)

Towering achievements: everyday objects named after French people (part 2)

Earlier in the year, inspired by the anniversary of the Eiffel Tower, OxfordWords discussed a variety of eponymous French inventions, from madeleine to nicotine. In this second part, we turn our attention towards other French inventions which bear the name of the person who discovered, invented, or inspired them… A shadow of his former self […]

Book_stack

Ask a lexicographer: part 3

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 about grammatical and conventional markings, the complex origins of a spelling convention, and more. Which colour? You can say either. Both have entries in the Oxford English Dictionary, […]

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Why learn Italian?

Florence

“Marjorie!” Sighing with relief, I looked around the rows of old-fashioned single desks, wondering who the unfortunate Marjorie was. Our fierce and flame-haired Italian professoressa was picking on lone students to perform grammatical acrobatics. It was eight o’clock on a dark December morning and my Introduzione all’italiano module was not going well. “Marjorie!” – poor […]

Spanish Internet terms – how to fill gaps in a language

mouse

Back when I was at school learning Standard Grade Spanish, the only computing word that we needed to know was ordenador, the word for the computer itself. While the Internet was becoming an increasingly useful adjunct to our lives, it was still something of a side issue, rather than the can’t-imagine-life-without-it behemoth that it is […]

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Which Winston? Confusable names in the OED

Which Winston? Confusable names in the OED

Thomas Hardy was born on 22 May 1804. “But wait,” I hear you cry, clutching the Dictionary of National Biography to your chest, fanning yourself down with a copy of The Mayor of Casterbridge, clasping an edition of – no, sorry, you’ve run out of hands – “Thomas Hardy was born on 2 June 1840, […]

H. P. Lovecraft and the Northern Gothic Tongue

H. P. Lovecraft

There is a very specific language of Gothic and horror literature that has its roots buried deep in the history of English: doom has been around since Old English; dread carries over from Middle English; eerie, that sense of vague superstitious uneasiness, enters Middle English through Scottish. The adjectives are harsh and guttural: moons are […]

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Paris in the spring

Paris in the spring

To celebrate the publication of OUP’s new bilingual Compact dictionaries in May, we are featuring a series of blog posts regarding French, Spanish, Russian, German, and Italian over the coming weeks. In this first post, Joanna Rubery considers the far-reaching effects of Parisian culture, including French words to be heard in the streets of South […]

Who’s confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and similar suffixes?

Who's confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and

For those of you who’ve been following my occasional series about homophonous affixes (or, to put it another way, word-endings and -beginnings that sound the same when spoken!), you should now know your -ables from your -ibles and be proficient in fore- versus for- or four. There are plenty more similar-sounding affixes, though, so I thought […]

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