Glossary

The glossary explains terms, words, senses, abbreviations and symbols used on this site or in connection with the OED.

    • ¶ (paragraph mark): symbol printed at beginning of entries in OED1, Burchfield’s Supplement and OED2 (but not the 1933 Supplement or OED3) to indicate ‘catachrestic and erroneous uses’. See General Explanations (1888: xxi) and discussion in Brewer 2005, 2007b
    • ║(vertical parallel lines): symbol (referred to by the lexicographers themselves as ‘tramlines’) printed at beginning of entries in OED1, Burchfield’s Supplement and OED2 (but not the 1933 Supplement or OED3) to indicate words which are ‘not naturalized, alien’
    • † (dagger sign): symbol printed at beginning of entries in all editions of OED (except 1933 Supplement) to indicate obsolete words
    • Addenda = ‘[list of] those things which need to be added’ (Latin): standard term in dictionary-making, referring to list of new items added to successive printings, or editions, of an existing dictionary. Sometimes includes and sometimes distinguished from Corrigenda
    • Additions (also Additions Series): three volumes supplementing the 2nd edition of the OED, containing new entries prepared for the 3rd edn, edited by John [J. A.] Simpson and Edmund [E. S. C.] Weiner (vols 1 and 2) and Michael Proffitt (vol. 3) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993-1997). These entries were incorporated into the online version of OED2 (i.e. the electronically searchable version of OED2 available up till 2010 but then removed from public consultation) and are incorporated into the composite version of OED2 (i.e. unrevised entries) and OED3 (revised entries) now available on the OED website
    • Corrigenda = ‘[list of] those things which need to be corrected’ (Latin): see Addenda
    • Delegates of OUP (Delegates of the Press): a group of senior members of Oxford University (including the Vice Chancellor, Proctors and – more recently – the Assessor) who, according to the University’s statutes, ‘have charge of the affairs of [Oxford University] Press’. See the OUP website for more information
    • Dictionary: ‘Dictionary’ (with uppercase ‘D’) is how we refer on this site to the OED as opposed to other dictionaries
    • ECCO: abbreviation for Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, subscription database available at http://www.gale.com/EighteenthCentury/ [accessed 26 August 2019]: ‘The largest and most comprehensive online historical archive of its kind and an essential resource for advanced study of the eighteenth century, this collection contains every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom between the years 1701 and 1800’
    • EEBO: abbreviation for Early English Books Online, subscription database available at https://eebo.chadwyck.com/home [accessed 13 September 2019]. As its website describes, this resource constitutes an ‘incomparable collection [containing] more than 125,000 titles listed in Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) and their revised editions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) collection and the Early English Books Tract Supplement‘. Subject areas include English literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics, and science
    • EETS. The Early English Text Society, founded in 1864 by F. J. Furnivall to publish unprinted Old and Middle English texts, in part to furnish quotation sources for OED1. See the Society website at http://www.eets.org.uk [accessed 20 August 2019] together with further information on its early history (including on Furnivall and Murray) in Brewer 1996, chapter 5
    • EME: abbreviation for ‘Early Modern English’
    • EOED: abbreviation for ‘Examining the OED’, i.e. this project and/or its website
    • fascicle (also fasciculus, pl. fasciculi, Latin): OED1 defines the relevant sense of this word as ‘A part, number, “livraison” (of a work published by instalments)’; it is the term used of the successive instalments in which the first edition of the Dictionary was published between 1884 and 1928
    • first quotation: a first quotation is the chronologically earliest quotation to be cited in any OED entry. See First quotations and discussion at Seward and first quotations
    • General Explanations: account of the English language and of OED’s editorial practices and printing conventions, written by J. A. H. Murray and first published as part of the introductory material to the first fascicle of OED1 published in 1884. Subsequently reproduced in the first volume of the Dictionary (containing the first four fascicles, covering letters A-B, published in 1888), in the 1933 edition of OED1, and (with some minor unacknowledged changes) as part of the introductory material to OED2. Pagination varies according to which printing is cited. The original text can now be downloaded as a PDF from the OED Online website at http://public.oed.com/wp-content/uploads/General-Explanations.pdf [accessed 31 August 2018]
    • ghost word: a word which has no ‘real’ existence. The term was coined by W. W. Skeat, who in 1886 delivered a paper to the Philological Society on ‘ “Ghost-words”, or Words which have no real Existence’: ‘We should jealously guard against all chances of giving any undeserved record of words which had never any real existence, being mere coinages due to the blunders of printers or scribes, or to the perfervid imaginations of ignorant or blundering editors.’ See Transactions of the Philological Society (1885-7), 350-1
    • hapax legomenon (pl. hapax legomena) = ‘once said’ (Greek): ‘A word or form of which only one instance is recorded in a literature or an author’ (OED2). This term was not recorded in OED1 and was added to the Dictionary by Craigie and Onions in their 1933 Supplement, illustrated with two quotations dated 1801 and 1882. Burchfield included it in the second volume of his Supplement (1976) and added a further 4 quotations. On this site, we extend the definition slightly to include words or forms recorded by the Dictionary as being used by one author alone, even if used by that author more than once. Thus, for the purposes of our analysis of OED, we regard dashingness as an (OED) hapax legomenon, although it is recorded in two separate quotations (dated 1934 and 1943) in OED, since the author is in each case the same (Elizabeth Bowen). (Outside the OED, dashingness is not a hapax legomenon, as a google search readily indicates). There are some instances where it is difficult to categorise a usage: noonshine, n.¹ (‘nuncheon‘), for example, was added to the Dictionary by Burchfield in the 1976 volume of his Supplement, and supported by two quotations of 1808, both from Jane Austen’s letters. It is now (in OED3) illustrated by a third quotation, from the Washington Post in 1993, which refers to Austen’s usage. OED uses varying means and terms to indicate a unique usage: ‘nonce-formation’, ‘nonce-use’, ‘nonce-word’ (q.v.), ‘for the nonce’, etc.; also rare-¹ (see superscript numbers below). Sometimes words illustrated with only one quotation are not thus marked: e.g. inabrogable (1617), imberb (Aldous Huxley, 1923). Evidently the status of a hapax legomenon is always volatile: the word may exist or have existed in wider oral use, but not been written down; or if written down, the place of record may not have been noted by OED readers or lexicographers. Sadly it seems there is now no way to search OED Online for hapax legomena, though one used to be able to do so on the version of OED2 now removed from the website
    • hard word: a term used in early English dictionaries to designate difficult and unfamiliar words, usually from classical or foreign languages, which had recently entered (or were thought to have entered) the language. Robert Cawdrey’s work of 1604, generally taken to be the first monolingual English dictionary, was called A Table Alphabeticall conteyning and teaching the true writing, and vnderstanding of hard vsuall English wordes, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, or French, &c. With the interpretation thereof by plaine English words, gathered for the benefit & helpe of Ladies, Gentlewomen, or any other vnskilfull persons. Whereby they may the more easilie and better vnderstand many hard English wordes, which they shall heare or read in Scriptures, Sermons, or elswhere, and also be made able to vse the same aptly themselues. Green (1996: 147) reports the term (unrecorded in OED) was ‘first used as lexicographical jargon by John Baret in his Alvearie (1573)’.
    • Historical Introduction: account of inception, development and completion of OED1 written by W. A. Craigie and C. T. Onions and published in 1933 re-issue of OED1. Subsequently reprinted with minor modifications in OED2. The original text is currently (January 2019) available on the OED Online website at http://public.oed.com/wp-content/uploads/Historical-Introduction.pdf
    • HTOED: abbreviation for Historical Thesaurus of the OED. This work, published in two volumes in 2009, is a thesaurus based on OED2 and is now under further development at https://ht.ac.uk/. A version of the resource can be accessed electronically via OED Online, which links its material to revised OED3 entries as described at the EOED page Links to HTOED. For discussion of its relationship with OED see Case-study: terms for lesbian
    • LME: abbreviation for ‘Late Modern English’
    • lemma: ‘A lexical item as it is presented, usu. in a standardized form, in a dictionary entry; a definiendum’ (OEDO accessed 28 September 2019). This sense was only added to OED in the Additions of 1997 but is recorded as in use in English from 1951, indicating that it had not achieved general currency in 1976 when Burchfield published the relevant volume of the 1972-86 Supplement – although the Additions prints a quotation from him (dated 1974) as an example of lemma used in this way
    • Mod: this label (= modern) was used in OED1 to mark quotations which had been made up by the lexicographers, in order to illustrate words or usages for which they could find no satisfactory independent instances of common usage. Two examples are ‘As fine a child as you will see’, to illustrate a, a.² (indef. article) (sense 1. c.), and ‘the new arrival is a little daughter’, to illustrate arrival (sense 6), both in OED1’s first fascicle published 1884. On both occasions, so his granddaughter tells us, Murray was sitting at the bedside of his wife, who had just given birth to a daughter (K. M. E. Murray 1977: 200-1). When OED1 was merged with Burchfield’s four Supplement volumes to create OED2, these 19th-century examples continued undated, giving the erroneous impression that ‘modern’ implies the 1980s, not the 1880s. OED3 lexicographers are dating or (more usually) replacing these quotations as they revise
    • New English Dictionary (N.E.D.): the name given to OED1 in its early years and also subsequently, in tandem with ‘OED’; see also Philological Society’s Dictionary. It derives from the Philological Society’s Proposal for the Publication of a New English Dictionary (1859), itself thus titled to draw attention to the view propounded in this document that, instead of supplementing existing dictionaries as previously suggested, the Philological Society should oversee the preparation of an entirely new work (see Historical Introduction for more information). In 1928, Onions recorded that ‘A New English Dictionary’ was the official title in use at Oxford University Press, adding ‘not that there is any quarrel with those who prefer O.E.D., the symbol for the Oxford English Dictionary, a style adopted now for many years on the covers and wrappers of our sections and parts, and on the binding cases of the quarter-persian edition, but not incorporated in the title page’ (Onions 1928b) – the first cover of a fascicle to bear the designation ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ alongside that of ‘New English Dictionary’ that for Deceit to Deject, published 1 Jan 1895, and every fascicle issued after 1 July of that year included both titles. Many users were perplexed as to which was the correct title to adopt. In 1927, R. W. Chapman (Secretary, i.e. chief executive, of OUP) published a letter in The Times (18 May, p. 17) pointing out that ‘ “New English Dictionary” is not adequately descriptive without the rest of the formula (“on Historical Principles”)’, and that the OUP Delegates had therefore for some years ‘permitted the hope that the shorter “Oxford Dictionary” might ultimately gain acceptance’. In 1930, his deputy Kenneth Sisam wrote to a still puzzled correspondent as follows: ‘On the whole we think the short form O.E.D. = Oxford English Dictionary is more distinctive than N.E.D. = New English Dictionary, as the latter has an element of anachronism and vagueness, but we have no particular wish that N.E.D. should fall into desuetude. Internally we use O.E.D. In strictly philological publications N.E.D. is better established. I am sorry I cannot be more precise’ (11 March 1930, OED Archives, PP/1930/6). From 1933, Oxford English Dictionary appeared on the title pages of the Dictionary, but many scholars continued to refer to OED1 as N.E.D. long after this (e.g. George Kane and E. T. Donaldson, in Piers Plowman: The B-Text (London: Athlone Press, 1975)). Note also that, according to M. M. Mathews, A Survey of English Dictionaries (Oxford University Press, London 1933: 69), ‘For a long time Notes and Queries referred to [the OED] as H.E.D (Historical English Dictionary)’
    • nonce-word: as J. A. H. Murray wrote s.v. nonce (sense 4) in OED1, this is ‘the term used in this Dictionary to describe a word which is apparently used only for the nonce’, i.e. (as the updated OED3 entry now explains) ‘on one specific occasion or in one specific text or writer’s works’. OED3 tells us that ‘nonce-word’ was ‘one of a number of terms coined by James Murray especially for use in the N.E.D.’ (another such term was ‘echoic’)
    • ODNB: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, available online at https://www.oxforddnb.com/ (subscription required)
    • OED: the Oxford English Dictionary. See N.E.D.
    • OED1: the first edition of the OED, published 1884-1928 and reissued in 1933 with a Supplement. Edited by J. A. H. Murray, Henry Bradley, W. A. Craigie and C. T. Onions (see Which edition contains what?)
    • OED2: the second edition of the OED, published 1989, a merging of OED1 with the four-volume Supplement of 1972-86, with the addition of about 5,000 new words and senses (identified for inclusion since the respective volume of the second Supplement was published). Compiled by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner (see Which edition contains what?)
    • OED3: the third and ongoing revised edition of the OED, now edited by Michael Proffitt (the first editor was John [i.e. J. A.] Simpson, who retired in 2013), published online from March 2000 onwards and updated every quarter (see Which edition contains what?)
    • OED Online (OEDO): available to subscribers at https/www.oed.com. Contains two versions of OED: (i) OED2, and (ii) OED2 merged with the portion of OED which has been revised to date for the third edition of the Dictionary (see Which edition contains what?)
    • OUP: Oxford University Press, which took over responsibility for publishing the Dictionary and paying its staff in 1879
    • Paragraph mark (¶): symbol printed at beginning of entries in OED1, Burchfield’s Supplement and OED2 (but not the 1933 Supplement or OED3) to indicate ‘catachrestic and erroneous uses’. See General Explanations (1888: xxi) and discussion in Brewer 2005, 2007b
    • Periodical, The: OUP’s own in-house journal, appearing quarterly, reporting news and carrying articles about books published by and issues relevant to the Press. Published from 1896-1979. Several issues were devoted to OED matters (e.g. in 1915 to Murray’s death, in 1928 to the completion of OED, in 1933 to the re-issue of OED1)
    • Philological Society’s Dictionary: the London Philological Society (founded 1842) originally proposed the dictionary that was to become OED1, and it was by this title that the dictionary was often referred to. Long after most other users had dropped the attribution, the Philological Society continued to refer to ‘the Society’s Dictionary’, and up to 1982 printed a paragraph on the back cover of each volume of its Transactions stating that ‘The Society’s New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, edited by the late Sir James A. H. Murray, Dr. Henry Bradley, Professor Sir W. A. Craigie, and Dr. C. T. Onions, and published by the Clarendon Press, was completed in 1928′. See also New English Dictionary
    • The Press: = Oxford University Press
    • reader: term used to denote one of the host of volunteers who have offered their services to the Dictionary, from its early days onwards, to read through sources and copy out quotations for individual words and senses. As indicated by the acknowledgements in every fascicle and volume of OED published from 1884 to 1989, the Dictionary has always been crucially reliant on this voluntary labour (which continues today: see  http://www.oed.com/public/contribute/contribute-to-the-oed [accessed 28 August 2018] for information about how to contribute
    • Second Edition: see OED2
    • Secretary to the Delegates: the traditional title for the Chief Executive of OUP
    • slip: the term used for the pieces of paper, about 4 x 6 inches, on which quotations for the OED were copied by readers according to certain set conventions (it was important to specify the date, edition, title, author etc. of the work from which they were taken). Once submitted to the Dictionary, they were sorted into alphabetical order and additional material, on ‘top-slips’, supplied by the OED staff and editors (etymology, pronunciation, definition etc.). Bundles of slips for each entry were then sent to the printers. See further Onions’ description of how the Dictionary was made (Onions 1928a), and Gilliver 2004
    • Society’s Dictionary, The: see Philological Society’s Dictionary
    • sub-editor: EITHER one of the volunteers associated with the Philological Society’s Dictionary in its early stages, in charge of collecting evidence for particular letters of the alphabet from other voluntary readers, and returning them to the editor(s). See further F. J. Furnivall’s notebook OR one of the editors working on the OED from the 1880s onwards under a principal editor such as Murray, Bradley, Craigie and Onions (see Who’s who section for information on these individuals)
    • superscript (or ‘superior’) numbers: occurring in entries in all three editions of OED, these are ‘used to distinguish homonyms…and after the labels Obs. and rare to indicate words or senses for which only one (-¹) or no (-º) contextual example from a printed source was available to the editors’ (quoted from Preface to OED2, p. lxiv; see also Burchfield 1974: 7-9). For an example of a word marked (-¹), see wealsman, whose sole quotation is cited from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus (a1616); the entry was first published in OED1 in 1926 and has not been revised (as of September 2019). For an example of a word marked (-º), see the verb implank, cited only from Florio’s dictionary New World of Words (1611); entry first published in OED1 1899 and also not since revised (as of September 2019).
    • Supplement: The first Supplement to OED, edited by W. A. Craigie and C. T. Onions, was printed as a separate volume in the 1933 reissue of OED1 and given away free to all existing OED subscribers. The second Supplement, edited by R. W. Burchfield, was published in 4 volumes in 1972 (A-G), 1976 (H-N), 1982 (O-Scz), and 1986 (Se-Z). Not to be confused with the Additions
    • s.v.: = ‘sub voce‘ or ‘sub verbo‘ (Latin), meaning ‘under the word’. An abbreviation used by lexicographers, philologists etc. to refer the reader to material recorded under (s.v.) a particular lemma. Thus Murray’s definition of nonce-word can be found in OED1 s.v. nonce (sense 4)
    • tramlines: OED lexicographers’ term for the vertical parallel lines symbol (║) printed at beginning of entries in OED1, Burchfield’s Supplement and OED2 (but not the 1933 Supplement or OED3) to indicate words which are ‘not naturalized, alien’. See General Explanations (1888: xix)

EOED is most grateful to Peter Gilliver, Beverley McCullough (OED archivist at Oxford University Press), Andrew Goudie, Sandy Malcolm and John Simpson for help with various of the Glossary items.

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