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

Oxford Dictionaries Community

Introducing the Oxford Dictionaries Community

What is the Community? Have you ever wondered how to use the Oxford comma, or what the French equivalent of Bob’s your uncle is? Do you want to discuss selfie, semi-colons, and subclauses? Are there, in fact, questions about language you’ve always wanted to ask, and linguistic topics you’ve been longing to discuss? As you […]

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Eighteenth-century soldiers’ slang: “Hot Stuff” and the British Army

Britain’s soldiers were singing about hot stuff more than 200 years before Donna Summer released her hit song of the same name in 1979. The true origins of martial ballads are often difficult to ascertain, but a song entitled ‘Hot Stuff’ can be found in print by 1774. The 5 May edition of Rivington’s New York Gazetteer […]

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Mountain Bluebird

Twitter and the Oxford English Dictionary

Although Twitter (maximum 140 characters) and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (over 350 million characters) may seem like strange bedfellows, the former has recently become an integral part of the latter: for the first time, the OED has included individual Twitter posts as part of its quotation evidence. Twitter as historical evidence In recent OED […]

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SOS

The origins of SOS and Mayday

S.O.S became the worldwide standard distress signal (particularly in maritime use) on 1 July 1908, having first been adopted by the German government three years earlier. It has since entered the awareness of those who are unlikely ever to summon help at sea – appearing in contexts as varied as the title of songs by […]

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Nautical terms

Sailing the seas of nautical language

I recently endured a weekend of mini-disasters (and it was supposed to be a relaxing Bank Holiday, too!). When I related the catalogue of catastrophettes to my father, his first response was ‘Well, worse things happen at sea!’. Though I was piqued, as he clearly didn’t think my weekend ranked high on the scale of […]

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Unusual words with surprising meanings

When you hear or read a new word, it can be difficult to work out what the meaning might be intuitively. That, of course, is partly what dictionaries are for. When a word sounds like another, though, you might be misled into thinking you can guess its meaning… Here are some definitions of words which […]

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Russian

Russian? It’s child’s play!

Although Russian isn’t as far removed from many European languages as you might think, it can’t help but appear impenetrable. Those funny letters, long words… Once you’ve mastered Russian’s complex grammar and got your head around those tricky consonant clusters, it often feels as if your language-learning journey is complete. That is, until you encounter […]

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Georges

Quiz: George Orwell or George Michael?

Did you know that the novelist George Orwell and the singer George Michael share 25 June as their birthday? Unsurprisingly, they’re more than a few years apart – George Orwell (the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair) was born on 25 June 1903, while George Michael (originally Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou) followed exactly sixty years later. […]

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