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Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press. It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world. The second edition, comprising 21,728 pages in 20 volumes, was published in 1989.

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.

Furnivall believed that, since many printed texts from earlier centuries were not readily available, it would be impossible for volunteers to efficiently locate the quotations that the dictionary needed. As a result, he founded the Early English Text Society in 1864 and the Chaucer Society in 1868 to publish old manuscripts. Furnivall's preparatory efforts lasted 21 years and provided numerous texts for the use and enjoyment of the general public, as well as crucial sources for lexicographers, but they did not actually involve compiling a dictionary. Furnivall recruited more than 800 volunteers to read these texts and record quotations. While enthusiastic, the volunteers were not well trained and often made inconsistent and arbitrary selections. Ultimately, Furnivall handed over nearly two tons of quotation slips and other materials to his successor.

During the 1870s, the Philological Society was concerned with the process of publishing a dictionary with such an immense scope. They had pages printed by publishers, but no publication agreement was reached; both the Cambridge University Press and the Oxford University Press were approached. The OUP finally agreed in 1879 (after two years of negotiating by Sweet, Furnivall, and Murray) to publish the dictionary and to pay Murray, who was both the editor and the Philological Society president. The dictionary was to be published as interval fascicles, with the final form in four volumes, totalling 6,400 pages. They hoped to finish the project in ten years.

The supplements and their integration into the second edition were a great improvement to the OED as a whole, but it was recognized that most of the entries were still fundamentally unaltered from the first edition. Much of the information in the dictionary published in 1989 was already decades out of date, though the supplements had made good progress towards incorporating new vocabulary. Yet many definitions contained disproven scientific theories, outdated historical information, and moral values that were no longer widely accepted. Furthermore, the supplements had failed to recognize many words in the existing volumes as obsolete by the time of the second edition's publication, meaning that thousands of words were marked as current despite no recent evidence of their use.

The revision is expected to roughly double the dictionary in size. Apart from general updates to include information on new words and other changes in the language, the third edition brings many other improvements, including changes in formatting and stylistic conventions to make entries clearer to read and enable more thorough searches to be made by computer, more thorough etymological information, and a general change of focus away from individual words towards more general coverage of the language as a whole. While the original text drew its quotations mainly from literary sources such as novels, plays, and poetry, with additional material from newspapers and academic journals, the new edition will reference more kinds of material that were unavailable to the editors of previous editions, such as wills, inventories, account books, diaries, journals, and letters.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, originally started in 1902 and completed in 1933, is an abridgement of the full work that retains the historical focus, but does not include any words which were obsolete before 1700 except those used by Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, and the King James Bible. A completely new edition was produced from the OED2 and published in 1993, with revisions in 2002 and 2007.