New words are entering the English language all the time – have been since the language began.

I don’t know about you, but, until I started getting interested in writing historical fiction, I didn’t think a whole lot about word origins and writing. That sort of thing interested me (my husband got me the “Compact Oxford English Dictionary” for Valentine’s Day 2000, and I was THRILLED!), but I never saw the benefit of knowing that information (0ther than answering trivia questions).

But now, if I want to be authentic in my writing, I need to be sure the words my characters are using actually existed during the time period they are speaking. My Civil War hero shouldn’t be talking about “finagling” a situation, as that word didn’t show up in the English language until 1926 (according to my writing friend Roseanna White’s blog post last month). And we can’t have Benjamin Franklin writing that everything is O.K., because that abbreviation didn’t first appear in print until March 23, 1839 (yes, 173 years ago today) in the Boston Globe ( has an article about it on This Day In History, if you’re interested).

But where, you may ask, can you get this information? Well, there’s always the Oxford English Dictionary (either online by clicking on that link – or if you wanna stop by my house, I’ll let you borrow mine – along with the magnifying glass that will  allow you to actually READ it!).

Another great site for this is the Online Etymology Dictionary. It’s amazing what you might learn about words you are SURE have been around forever. And if it’s just a matter of curiosity and/or fun, Roseanna White has a weekly post on her blog about the origin of a word she’s been researching. I love to read her Word of the Week post.

I’m sure there are other sources of this kind of information. If you know any, please share them in the comments!

Do you find word origins interesting? Do you have any other sources for them?

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