A Short Guide on Oxford Dictionary

Oxford dictionary is a famous dictionary of the English language introduced by Oxford University Press (OUP). It reflects the historical progress of the English language in a simplistic way. It’s a vast source of knowledge for scholars and academicians all over the world. 

Although it started back in 1857 – it was published long after in 1884. But, it was published with a different title. “Oxford English Dictionary” was the first title used in 1895. It was in 1928 when the series of 10th volumes of the dictionary was finally published. 

The second edition of this dictionary came in 1989. In 2000, Oxford started working on the 3rd edition of this dictionary. Besides, the electronic mode of this dictionary was made in 1988. To speak of its online version, it was available in 2000. 

According to an information (2014) released by OUP, the 3rd edition of this dictionary will come in an electronic version. The Chief Executive of the OUP has said that there is some unlikeliness regarding the printing of the 3rd edition.

Historical Nature

The Oxford Dictionary is the best dictionary that provides the word first. It contains complete information about the first usage of the word in history. After the meaning of each term, there are short quotations written in chronological order. It indicates the lifespan of the word. This format also has influenced later editions and other historical projects.  

Vast Size of the Dictionary

According to the opinion of the publishers, it would take more than 120 years to include the 59 million words of the dictionary. As per the report of 2005, the Oxford dictionary had about 301,100 main entries. The latest edition came in 20 volumes having 291,500 entries in 21,730 pages. Despite having a large size, surprisingly this is not the world’s largest dictionary. 

Origin of the Dictionary

The work of the dictionary was started by a small group of scholar persons in London for the Philological Society. This group of people came with the idea of the dictionary long before in 1844. 

In 1857, they set up an ‘Unregistered Words Committee’ to find the words that were not properly explained in the current dictionaries of that time. They came up with the following shortcomings in the dictionaries:

·         Incomplete explanation of various terms

·         Insufficient coverage of related stories

·         Incorrect dates of the first use of certain words

·         Improper differences among synonyms

·         No usage of good quotations

·         Wastage of space for needless contents

The team noticed that the number of words not listed is much more than the enlisted words in contemporary dictionaries. As was suggested by Trench in 1858, they decided to adopt a new comprehensive dictionary. 

Editors of the Dictionary

The Philological Society was occupied with immense hope of publishing a new dictionary in 1870. They already had the printed pages with them – but, there was a lack of an agreement. It was at this time that they went to the Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. Negotiations continued for about two years. 

In 1879, the OUP finally agreed to publish the Oxford dictionary. They have decided to pay Murray – he was both the president of the Philological Society and the editor of the dictionary. They planned to complete the dictionary in ten years.

Second Edition Oxford dictionary

The second edition of the Oxford dictionary was published on 30 March 1989. It consists of 21,730 pages. The editors of the second edition were John Simpson and Edmund Weiner. 

As the new volume was ready, it was well understood that it had to be computerized, and it would be prepared for computer searching. The journey towards this goal began in 1983.

Third Edition Oxford dictionary

This noted the launching of the online site of the Oxford dictionary in 2000. The editors started revising the second edition and are estimated to come up with the third edition by 2037. The cost of this project is expected to be around 34 million.


The Oxford dictionary is truly a ‘national treasure’ as noted by Stanley Baldwin, British Prime Minister. The dictionary has received a lot of appreciation from renowned personalities of the world. The Oxford dictionary has made the lives of people much easier by explaining the meanings of the English word in a short, simple and straightforward way.

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