Help with words and dictionaries

Here you’ll find answers to some frequently asked questions about our dictionaries, the English language, and more.

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

How do you know what a word means?

What is the OED? 

Can I add a word to an Oxford Dictionary?  

More questions about dictionaries 


I disagree with the definition you’ve provided.

Oxford Dictionaries are descriptive (describing how language is used) rather than prescriptive (prescribing how language should be used). As such, definitions do not reflect the opinions of Oxford Dictionaries, but rather an analysis of how a word is used from real-world examples. For a discussion of the roles of descriptivism and prescriptivism, you can read this blog post.


I don’t think all the example sentences you use are appropriate

All the example sentences throughout the site are real examples of usage, taken from the Oxford English Corpus. They are taken from a huge variety of different sources, from all parts of the world where English is used, and they reflect a wide spectrum of views and levels of language. Opinions and views expressed in the usage examples are the views of the individuals concerned and are not endorsed by Oxford University Press.


Can I use Oxford Dictionaries definitions in my research?

You are welcome to use our definitions in your research, using the citation button. This can be found by choosing the + symbol from the 'share this page' buttons. This brings up a new menu, including the option to cite, as shown below.

If you would like to cite an entry, you can click on ‘Cite’ in the top-right corner of any entry.

More words and dictionaries questions

What is the origin of the word 'OK'?

What is the origin of the word 'penguin'?

More questions about word origins 


How many words are there in the English language?

Why is 'w' pronounced 'double u' rather than 'double v'?

More questions about the English language