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

Category: Word origins

Jack and the Flagpole: what do you call the British national flag?

Bunting

Travelling around Britain, as I’ve been doing this week, I have been struck, as anyone would be, by the profusion of national flags. Not only are they to be found draped on cars and pinned in bedroom windows this year, the British flag is also being displayed on civic flagpoles, high-street lamp-posts, and pub-signs, and […]

Cavorting about

Cavorting about

As headlines today scream ‘Prince Harry cavorts naked in Vegas party photos’, we asked chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary John Simpson for an insight into the disputed origins of the word ‘cavort’. “This is something that has had lexicographers scratching their heads over the years. Not why people cavort about, but where the […]

From rockabilly to mathcore: exploring the cultural and linguistic blending of popular music genres

From rockability to mathcore: exploring the cultural and linguistic blending of popular music genres

The language of music has never been more nimble. With fusion genres like nu metal, trip hop, acid jazz, and synthpop having emerged over the last thirty years or so, it’s no surprise that our music vocabulary has expanded. And since we here at the OxfordWords blog love our portmanteaus, it only seems right to […]

Writing for grown-up people: George Eliot and the Oxford English Dictionary

Book Lover's Day: George Eliot

In celebration of Book Lover’s Day, we asked four of our dictionary editors to tell us about their favourite writers. Each of the writers featured is in the top 1000 cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary. If you subscribe to the OED Online (many UK libraries offer free access if you provide your library […]

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, and the Oxford English Dictionary

Book Lover's Day: Virginia Woolf

In celebration of Book Lover’s Day, we asked four of our dictionary editors to tell us about their favourite writers. Each of the writers featured is in the top 1000 cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary. If you subscribe to the OED Online (many UK libraries offer free access if you provide your library […]

Sir Thomas Browne and the Oxford English Dictionary

Book Lover's Day: Sir Thomas Browne

In celebration of Book Lover’s Day, we asked four of our dictionary editors to tell us about their favourite writers. Each of the writers featured is in the top 1000 cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary. If you subscribe to the OED Online (many UK libraries offer free access if you provide your library […]

Aldous Huxley and the Oxford English Dictionary

Book Lover's Day: Aldous Huxley

In celebration of Book Lover’s Day, we asked four of our dictionary editors to tell us about their favourite writers. Each of the writers featured is in the top 1000 cited sources in the Oxford English Dictionary. If you subscribe to the OED Online (many UK libraries offer free access if you provide your library […]

German loanwords in the English language

German loanwords in the English language

Cockroach, lantern, algebra, sabbath – these are only a few of the loanwords that we use in the English language without them striking us as being particularly unusual. Appropriately, ‘loanword’ itself is a loan translation (a so-called calque) of the German Lehnwort (Lehn from leihen = ‘lend’ + Wort = ‘word’). Throughout history, English has […]

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