Tag: FAQ

oed appeals site

Introducing the OED Appeals

Today the Oxford English Dictionary announces the launch of OED Appeals, a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English. The website will enable the public to post evidence in direct response to editors, fostering a collective effort to record the […]

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Lie or lay? What is the cat doing?

What’s the difference between ‘lie’ and ‘lay’?

There’s an abundance of evidence in every type of writing, from journalism to legal reports, that many English speakers are all at sea when it comes to understanding the differences between lie and lay If you confess to being among their number, it’s not entirely your fault: the situation is bewildering in some respects, all part […]

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To steal someone's thunder means to use someone's idea to your advantage.

What is the origin of ‘steal someone’s thunder’?

This idiom, defined as using the ideas devised by another person for your own advantage, has a gratifyingly literal story behind it. It is quite rare for etymologists to pinpoint the very first use of a word or phrase. In this case, however, the eighteenth-century actor and playwright Colley Cibber, in his Lives of the […]

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Tragedy comes from a word meaning 'goat song'.

Did ‘tragedy’ originally mean ‘goat song’?

It is absolutely true that the word ‘tragedy’ has roots in a Greek word meaning ‘goat-song’. Many theories have been offered to explain it. One is that Greek tragedies were known as goat-songs because the prize in Athenian play competitions was a live goat. The contests were part of worship to Dionysus, involving chants and […]

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The origin of ostracize has, unfortunately, nothing to do with ostriches.

Does ‘ostracize’ have anything to do with ‘ostriches’?

It’s a nice idea, but the two words are in fact quite separate. Ostrich comes from an Old French word ostruce, dating right back to the twelfth century. The Latin term for the bird was struthiocamelus, meaning a ‘sparrow camel’, a word coined after the first encounters with ostriches, probably because of the animal’s long […]

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How a new word enters an Oxford Dictionary

New word infographic

We’ve recently updated Oxford Dictionaries Online with bajillions of new words and terms, from fnarr fnarr and nom nom to mankini and luchador. But have you ever wondered how a word earns its place in Oxford Dictionaries Online? We’ve created this handy infographic to show you the journey of a word, from its inception to […]

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