Can I petition Oxford Dictionaries to change a dictionary entry?

We will update a definition in OxfordDictionaries.com if evidence from resources such as the Oxford English Corpus suggests that a word is being used in a different way. Since the dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, we will not change a definition solely because we or others believe a word should be used differently.

How do Oxford Dictionaries know what a word means?

When we're defining a word we combine our understanding of how it is used in the language with an analysis of resources such as the Oxford English Corpus. This should result in a definition of how a word is actually used, even when that usage is derogatory, rather than how we think it should be used.

How do you decide if a new word should be included in an Oxford dictionary?

We continually monitor the Oxford English Corpus and the Reading Programme to track new words coming into the language: when we have evidence of a new term being used in a variety of different sources (not just by one writer) it becomes a candidate for inclusion in one of our dictionaries. For every new dictionary or online update we assess all the most recent terms that have emerged and select those which we judge to be the most significant or important and those which we think are likely to stand the test of time.

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Do you include offensive words?

We never leave words out of dictionaries on the grounds that they aren't ‘good English’. Our general adult-level dictionaries cover informal, slang, and offensive terms and meanings as well as standard, formal, and technical vocabulary. We don’t exclude such terms, because they are as much a part of the language as any other words.

Our policy is to include informal, slang, or offensive words on the basis of their currency of use, but always to alert the user by marking them clearly and appropriately using labels such as ‘informal’, ‘derogatory’, or ‘vulgar’, and also by giving specific usage notes. We mark as ‘offensive’ any words or meanings which are likely to cause offence, even if a user may intend no offence by using them.


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