terms of endearment

Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things

In Words in Time and Place, David Crystal explores fifteen fascinating sets of synonyms, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. We’ve turned selections from six sections of Words in Time and Place into word clouds, arranged in a shape related to the topic in question. Take a look at the images below to see […]

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The language of snooker

Snooker is a nineteenth-century development of the much older game of billiards, which dates back as far as the sixteenth century. Billiards gets its name from the French word billard ‘cue’, a diminutive form of bille ‘stick’. Once adopted into English the word was pluralized, on the model of other games such as draughts and […]

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Feeling bright? 8 historical synonyms for ‘clever’

If you’re constantly top of the class, or you fancy your chances playing a trivia game, you’ve probably been called clever at some point, if only by yourself. Well, to show how clever you are, why not explore our list of historical synonyms for clever, taken from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary? […]

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Gallery: new quotations in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

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Quiz: how well do you know historical synonyms?

David Crystal’s Words in Time and Place (published today by OUP) uses the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary to explore the history of fifteen fascinating sets of words: synonyms for dying, the nose, and being drunk; meals, privies, and fools, and more. See how well you know historical synonyms, and the times and places […]

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Borrowed words: editing the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

I have been Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for over 15 years, and the interest of the work is as keen as ever. The joy of ODQ is that its content (based firmly on what is being quoted) is unpredictable and uncontrollable: no-one, however cleverly they craft a current soundbite, can ensure that […]

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american flag

America’s war on language

2014 marks the centennial of World War I, time to take a closer look at one of its offshoots, America’s little-known War on Language. In April, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. In addition to sending troops to fight in Europe, Americans waged war on the language of the enemy at home. German was […]

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dog chewing

From chavel to mumble: 10 unusual synonyms for ‘chew’

Do you manducate? Do you chavel? The chances are the answer is ‘yes’ to both these questions; they are both synonyms for chew. Taking a look in the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, we’ve come up with 10 unusual words you can use in place of chew next time you’re chomping on your […]

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