Oxford English Dictionary
Seven of the twenty volumes of printed second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1989).
|Published||1884–1928 (first edition)|
1989 (second edition)
Third edition in preparation
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the principal
Work began on the dictionary in 1857, but it was only in 1884 that it began to be published in unbound
The first electronic version of the dictionary was made available in 1988. The online version has been available since 2000, and as of April 2014 was receiving over two million hits per month. The third edition of the dictionary will most likely only appear in electronic form: the Chief Executive of Oxford University Press has stated that it is unlikely that it will ever be printed.
As a historical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary explains words by showing their development rather than merely their present-day usages. Therefore, it shows definitions in the order that the sense of the word began being used, including word meanings which are no longer used. Each definition is shown with numerous short usage quotations; in each case, the first quotation shows the first recorded instance of the word that the editors are aware of and, in the case of words and senses no longer in current usage, the last quotation is the last known recorded usage. This allows the reader to get an approximate sense of the time period in which a particular word has been in use, and additional quotations help the reader to ascertain information about how the word is used in context, beyond any explanation that the dictionary editors can provide.
The format of the OED's entries has influenced numerous other historical lexicography projects. The forerunners to the OED, such as the early volumes of the