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

Riotous words

Riot police

Various English cities spent a good portion of last week dealing with rioting, avoiding the riots, commenting on said riots, and cleaning up the aftermath. Leaving aside the ongoing discussion regarding the causes and effects of these civil disturbances, it would be interesting to look at the word riot itself. Riot has been in use […]

There’s nothing like a good spoonerism to tickle your bunny phone

Bunny phone

The English economist Sir Roy Forbes Harrod (1900–1978) once said that, compared to all the scholars he had known at Oxford and Cambridge, the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930) was the most exceptional in “scholarship, devotion to duty, and wisdom.” There is no reason to question Harrod’s assessment, but that’s not exactly the imprint for […]

28 million words, one corpus, and thousands of fascinating insights

Alphabet

Have you ever been told as a child to ‘stop daydreaming’ and pay attention? Then you will be interested to know that daydreaming is a word that is invariably used in a negative context by adults but in a much more positive sense by children. Examples from the Oxford English Corpus (a vast electronic collection […]

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Wall of words: the Berlin Wall fifty years on

Wall of words: the Berlin Wall fifty years on

The Berlin Wall was built fifty years ago on 13 August 1961. Like the concrete wall, the word wall divides Europe linguistically. Some European languages, like German and French, form their words for wall from the Latin murus. So the German for Berlin Wall is die Berliner Mauer. English, Irish, and other languages use another […]

Eating your words

Eating your words

“Keep your words sweet – you may have to eat them” is an aphorism often attributed to the French Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet, although variants of this phrase turn up in a number of other places. Grellet was perhaps a man who was aware of the etymological background of some English words for food, for […]

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A list of phobias from atelophobia to zelotypophobia

We define a phobia as ‘an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something’. You are probably aware of the more common phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and agoraphobia (fear of open places), but did you know there are also words which describe the fear of idleness, […]

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What were your top lookups in the past year?

What were your top lookups?

As part of our occasional search monitor series, here’s a clickable word cloud displaying about 350 of your most-viewed words in Oxford Dictionaries Online. Instead of looking at the last month, we thought it would be fun to look at the most looked-up words since Oxford Dictionaries Online’s inception. Over the last year a lot […]

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Why a catastrophe hasn’t always been bad news

Why a catastrophe hasn't always been bad news

The non-stop coverage this past month (at least in the United States) of the negotiations on raising the debt limit has propelled a number of words into prominence. Words and phrases such as ceiling, default, and credit rating have all received prime real estate in many newspapers. Along with these words, used largely in an […]

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