The Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the accepted authority on the English language, providing an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of more than 280,000 entries – past and present – from across the English-speaking world.

The OED is a historical dictionary and very different from dictionaries of current English where the focus is on present-day meanings. It contains the history of each word, and of the language, traced through more than 3.5 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.

The OED started life more than 150 years ago. Regular updates on the OED website revise and extend it, to match the language's development.

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Which English language resource should I use when?

The OED and the English dictionaries in are very different. focuses on current language and practical usage, while the OED shows how words and meanings have changed over time.

In, where words have more than one meaning the most important and common meanings are given first, with less common and more specialist or technical uses coming later in the entry. In the OED, on the other hand, meanings are ordered chronologically, starting with their first recorded use. The OED is a record of all the core words and meanings in the English language dating from over 1,000 years ago or more to the present day, including many obsolete and historical terms.

Both the OED and show how words are used in context. In the OED, each sense of a word is illustrated by quotations, sometimes spanning many centuries, from the earliest recorded appearance onwards. In, the English language evidence is illustrated by real-world sentences derived from the 10 billion-word Oxford English Corpus, a huge databank of 20th and 21st century English to show how English is used today.

The OED is the definitive resource for understanding how the English language has developed over time, or for digging deeper into its origins or variations around the world. offers practical help and advice on writing and speaking, not just in English but also multiple other languages.

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