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

Sesquipedalian ruminations (or, thinking about long words)

Sesquipedalian

It appears to be human nature to have a fascination with long or strange words. Most people, if you care to ask them about it, have a handful of words that they consider to be favorites, and very rarely is it that anyone admits that their favorite word is ‘kite’ or ‘plant’. Rather, the words […]

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Of course ‘clownvestite’ is a word!

Clown

Part of my job involves finding the extent to which Oxford Dictionaries Online is being linked to from other websites. To perform this task I query the search engines, and to see how you use our dictionary I visit a proportion of the websites linking to ODO that I find. A significant proportion of inbound […]

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-ize or -ise?

-ize or -ise?

Many people visiting the World (non-US) version of our website ask us why we spell words such as realize, finalize, and organize with ‘-ize’ spellings, rather than ‘-ise’. There’s a widespread belief that these spellings belong only to American English, and that British English should use the ‘-ise’ forms instead, i.e. realise, finalise, and organise. […]

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The F-word: how often do people *really* look it up?

Graph

If you are a seasoned OxfordWords reader, you may be familiar with our periodic search monitor pieces. These are interactive tag clouds, each showing a month’s snapshot of the relative frequency with which you, the users of Oxford Dictionaries Online, access different words. The words and ranks you see are drawn from our web statistics […]

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Japanese earthquake and tsunami search trends

Graph

The dictionary may well seem like a passive object – for hundreds of years it has been a sedentary repository of words, sitting idly on a shelf waiting to be picked up and used. But if you had the ability to make it an active object, one that could tell us what words people were […]

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Diacritics? They’re just passé!

Dogs Dinner

There is a moment in the life of every British 12-year-old in the first year of secondary school (that’s high school, for non-Brits), when, sitting down in front of their French teacher for the first time, they are introduced to the mysteries of accented letters. The twenty-six letters that have served them so well for […]

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Affect-effect

Affect versus effect

Every month, affect is one of the most searched-for words in Oxford Dictionaries Online. Its high ranking in our search logs is probably because a lot of people are confused about the difference between affect and effect, two words which have almost the same spelling, but very different meanings. The basic difference between them is […]

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I Mubarak, you Mubaraked, they were Mubaraking?

mubarak

There have been a good number of comments tweeted and posted online over the past few weeks about the possibility of turning Mubarak, the name of the recently resigned Egyptian leader, into a verb. Some of the suggestions as to what it might mean are ‘to stick to something like glue’, ‘to refuse to leave’, […]

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