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Course & Subject Guides

History of the English Language - Greensburg Campus

This guide will assist students in Dr. Greenfield's History of the English Language (ENGLIT 1552) course in researching the development of their chosen words.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

Oxford English Dictionary

To access the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online, click on the image above.

What is the OED?

"The Oxford English Dictionary is the definitive historical dictionary of the English language. This mammoth dictionary includes English language words from 1150 CE to the present day. Entries include over 2 million dated quotations from English language history, literature and records, and facts concerning word forms, changes and etymology."

*Please note that the OED is continually being updated, so it is possible that you will find earlier usages of your word in some of the other recommended products.

What will I find in the OED?

You will find elements that are common to all dictionaries - definitions, pronunciation, parts of speech, etc.  However, you will also find historical usage quoations with dates, as well as historical and current spelling variations.

*Note- When you are in the OED's entry for your word, you should click on the "Full Entry" link for the "View As:" option. 

I've searched for my word a few times, but it isn't coming up in the results list.  What should I do?

Take a look at the Help page.

I am looking at the quotations for my word, and they all seem to have an abbreviated title and author.  How can I figure out what the full title of the work is?

Another good question!  Each abbreviated title should be hyperlinked.  Simply roll your cursor over the title to get more detailed information.

I looked at the entry for my word; how do I know if there is an earlier usage or not?

It's time to start looking through some of the other products - EEBO, ECCO, and the Burney Collection Newspapers.

I am a bit of a "word geek."  Are there other cool things in OED for me to use?

Of course!  It is the OED after all.  On the OED's homepage is the "Word of the Day" can also sign up to have it delivered to you via email or RSS feed.  You can also use the "Lost for Words?" link in the Quick Search box to view random entries.

Unique Tools for the OED

"Explore the dictionary through groupings of words in, for instance, a subject or from a particular origin."

"Use our graphical timelines to find out the number of words that entered the OED in different time periods."

"Explore the top 1,000 authors and works quoted in the OED."

Historical Thesaurus
"Look up words or explore the subject options to find out historical synonyms."