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

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Borrowed words in English: tracing the changing patterns

In Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English I examine how words borrowed from different languages have influenced English throughout its history. The above feature summarizes some of the main data from the book, focussing on the fourteen sources that have given the most words to English, as reflected by the new and revised […]

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Must should ought- words

Must, should, or ought?

A woman’s place is in the bosom of her family; her thoughts ought seldom to emerge from it. The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany, Volume 97, 1825 Those nineteenth-century moralists! Can you imagine what today’s world would have been like if women such as Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, or Harriet Beecher Stowe had confined their […]

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food coma cat

New words added to Oxford Dictionaries, from food coma to shvitz

Our latest quarterly update to Oxford Dictionaries Online has seen a selection of new words, definitions, and senses added to the dictionary. The words originate in a range of spheres from food (branzino, cranachan) and music (beat-match) to astronomy (protoplanet) and, unsurprisingly, technology (lock screen, headcam), and include a variety of different word forms, from […]

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planets

Christopher Marlowe in the OED, from planeting to quinquangle

The works of Christopher Marlowe (the playwright, poet, and alleged spy) not only had an influence on William Shakespeare’s early historical plays, but also on the English language itself, as is evident from the number of times his works are quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). His plays and poems are currently quoted a […]

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US Supreme Court

How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?

For 20 years, 14 of those in England, I’ve been giving lectures about the social power afforded to dictionaries, exhorting my students to discard the belief that dictionaries are infallible authorities. The students laugh at my stories about nuns who told me that ain’t couldn’t be a word because it wasn’t in the (school) dictionary […]

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alpine skiing

10 words you need to know for Alpine skiing

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway, and we are celebrating this season of sport in the best way we know how: with words. For the duration of the Games, we are featuring terminology from many of this year’s competed sports. Today’s wordlist primer focuses on: Alpine skiing Are you an avid schussboomer? Whether you […]

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Yiddish

English words of Yiddish origin: schmoozing, kvetching, and keeping schtum

An extract from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins Yiddish, based on German dialect combined with words from Hebrew and Slavic languages, was spoken by Jews in central and eastern Europe before World War Two. It is still used in Israel and parts of Europe and the USA, especially New York, and has added an extra […]

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freestyle_skiing

9 words you need to know for freestyle skiing

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway, and we are celebrating this season of sport in the best way we know how: with words. For the duration of the Games, we are featuring terminology from many of this year’s competed sports. Today’s wordlist primer focuses on: Freestyle skiing Freestyle skiing is a ski discipline that […]

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