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.
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:
- 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.
- The first edition of the OED (with ten volumes and 400,000 definitions) was published in 1928, 71 years after it had been conceived.
- The second edition (with twenty volumes) was published in 1989.
- The CD-ROM version of the dictionary was first published in 1992.
- The online version has been available since 2000.
- OED has never been commercially profitable for its publishers Oxford University Press at any point of time.
- It may never be published on paper in future.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.