Katie’s Pick: Oxford English Dictionary

by Katie G.

I was first introduced to the Oxford English Dictionary, or OED, during the spring semester of my freshman year in college. My English professors easily accepted the OED as the “definitive record of the English language,” as claimed on the OED’s website; I was taught to use the OED as the only source for reviewing my vocabulary.  Despite the requirement, I came to love the OED – in particular, the online version of the dictionary.

Not only does the OED provide standard definitions, it also has extensive cross-references.  Is the word you are looking for Germanic, Latin, or Old English in origin?  When using the online version of the OED simply click on the suffix of a word and you can see the etymology of a word and how that word came into being across different languages.  While this can be rather confusing, as it refers to the grammatical significance of why certain adjectives or nouns were formed and understood, I find it entertaining to see how some words represent either a loss or survival of certain grammatical perspectives.

The online version of the OED allows you to examine a timeline of when words and specific phrases began to appear in the English language.  For example, the phrase “New Year’s” started to circulate sometime between 1800 and 1849.  The entry of the definition itself also gives readers a history of the use of the word.  For the ultimate word nerd, there is no greater or more complete definition.  What other dictionary allows you to do this?



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