Dictionaries are often a writer’s best friend – whether they be paper or virtual. Not sure what a word means? Its spelling? Proper usage? They’re the go-to resource.

And if you’re writing an historical piece – or even a period one – you may need to know when a word came into usage. THEN, where do you go?

One place to turn is the Oxford English Dictionary, considered the most comprehensive and accurate dictionary of the English language. This tome, which was first published (the first section of it, anyway) 129 years ago today, includes a detailed chronological history for every word and phrase, citing quotations from a wide range of sources.

Also known as a word-nerd’s paradise 😉

OEDPlans for the dictionary began in 1857, and the first fascicle (portion) of it was released on February 1, 1884. More than twenty-five years later, the last and 125th section came out – over 400,000 words and phrases in ten volumes total. It has been updated since the day it was finished with supplements, and is even available online to subscribers.

OR you can get the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, complete with magnifying glass, from your husband who KNOWS what a word geek you are, for Valentine’s Day. (yeah – that’s it – nine pages on each “page”)

The most current edition, available online, is updated quarterly with over a thousand new entries and revisions. There are no plans to print it again – as publishers estimate it would take one person 120 years to type the book’s 59 million words, plus sixty years to proofread it.

Happy Birthday, Oxford English Dictionary! Where do YOU go for definitions or word origins?


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