Oxford English Dictionary – An introduction and 10 amazing facts

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a premier and globally the most popular dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press – the largest university press in the world.

Oxford Dictionary

It all began in 1857 when members of the Philological Society of London (the oldest learned society in Great Britain dedicated to the study of language) concluded that the then existing English language dictionaries were incomplete in many respects.  A full-blown review of the language was the outcome of the conclusion and deliberations and this is the genesis of the Oxford Dictionary.  What however started with tremendous fanfare and an initial timeline of 10 years took decades to evolve and the first part of the dictionary could be published in 1884.

Other facts around the Oxford English Dictionary:


  1. Other than words coined in Britain, the dictionary encompasses borrowed foreign words from various countries, such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, etc.
  2. The first edition of the OED (with ten volumes and 400,000 definitions) was published in 1928, 71 years after it had been conceived.
  3.  The second edition (with twenty volumes) was published in 1989.
  4. The CD-ROM version of the dictionary was first published in 1992.
  5. The online version has been available since 2000.
  6. OED has never been commercially profitable for its publishers Oxford University Press at any point of time.
  7. It may never be published on paper in future.
  8. According to OED, the longest word in the English language is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis”, which refers to a lung disease (inflammation in the lungs) caused by the inhalation of very fine silica dust.
  9. One of the members involved in creating OED, William Chester Minor, was a psychopathic murderer and did much of his OED research while in a lunatic asylum.
  10. In spite of its massive size, OED is not the world’s largest dictionary of a language, a distinction held by the Dutch dictionary Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal.

OED is recognized the world over as the ultimate authority on the (English) language.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the OED with descriptions for approximately 600,000 words is the world’s most comprehensive single-language print dictionary.  Other than an important record of the evolution of English language, OED is considered symbolic of the continuing development of the society.

5 Responses to Oxford English Dictionary – An introduction and 10 amazing facts
  1. Bib
    October 12, 2012 | 11:55 am

    Thank you for this precious website. I have learn many things about OED today and my life is better because of you. Is sad that never be published on paper in future.

  2. DEEN
    October 16, 2012 | 7:06 pm

    Excellent and informative write up. In India,more particularly at MADRAS,we are wedded to this wonderful”OXFORD DICTIONARY” right from our school days in learning English as foreign language. Actually a branch of Oxford University press was functioning there providing us with clear prints of Concise Oxford dictionary.
    It is astonishing to learn that this yeomen service was never a profitable venture. Makes me really sad to learn its demise in paper form. Nevertheless it would gladden many million hearts of English learners if Oxford continue to print the much loved COD in paper for the coming generations.

  3. Seth
    October 23, 2012 | 3:04 pm

    pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis isn’t english… it’s latin, as is the case with most medically coined terms

  4. Tony Hyman
    November 8, 2012 | 7:08 am

    William Chester Minor was known as the Surgeon of Crowthorne since the asylum that is mentioned is on the outskirts of Crowthorne, a town in Berkshire, UK and the asylum was/is Broadmoor. The ‘Surgeon’ bit is due to the fact that he was a surgeon who practiced his trade during the American Civil War and it was that that ‘put him over the edge’ and how eventually he came to be in Broadmoor. He was eventually released and returned to America where he died, as far as I know, of natural causes.

  5. gsgwmdhtwr
    February 17, 2014 | 12:54 am

    I hate you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.yesiknowthat.com/oxford-english-dictionary/trackback/