james murray spelling

Did you know that James Murray… was for several years an advocate of spelling reform?

2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life […]

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Video: what is the origin of the word ‘quiz’?

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croquet

Death roll, leapfrog, and dambuster: the language of croquet

Now that spring and sunshine have reached Oxford, the croquet season has begun in earnest in college quads. Its reputation as a civilized, gentle pastime is confirmed by some of the terms used by players of the game: tea lady, dolly rush, trundle, and pirie poke. But the game has a nastier side too, witnessed […]

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ocean

Water, water, everywhere: how we named the oceans

Happy World Oceans Day! To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the linguistic roots of the world’s five oceans. Before we start, what of ocean itself? The word comes to English via Latin from the Greek ōkeanos, which meant ‘great stream encircling the earth’s disc’. The word ocean originally denoted the whole body of water […]

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“If you wish to advance into the infinite, explore the finite in all directions.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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emmy

Where do awards names come from?

While some arts awards – the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, for instance – more or less tell you what they are by their name, other awards have a little more mystery in their monikers. Oscar According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the alternate name for an Academy Award – an ‘Oscar’ – […]

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Video: how many is a billion?

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mullet

OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of the word ‘mullet’?

Can you help us? OED Appeals is a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English. Part of the process of revising words and phrases for the OED involves searching for evidence of a word’s first recorded use in English, […]

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