Online Oxford Dictionary

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The online Oxford dictionary offers the knowledge of this respected resource in a convenient form.

About the Oxford Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is more than a collection of words and their pronunciations and definitions. It is also a scholarly work tracing words' etymology and their development over the years. The dictionary includes more than 500,000 words and millions of quotations that showcase the changing nature of the English language.

The First Edition of the dictionary appeared in 1884. However, it wasn't considered complete until 1928. A series of supplements added content over the years until 1989 brought the Second Edition. The Second Edition was a compilation of previous releases, and a revision project - with the ultimate goal of a new edition - began almost immediately, in 1990.

Oxford English Dictionary Online

The Oxford English Dictionary is available online as a subscription service. Subscribers gain access to the complete text of the Second Edition of the dictionary, comprising twenty volumes and three volumes of additions. Individuals and institutions can subscribe. The site offers an online tour that helps new users get a feel for its features and whether a subscription would be worthwhile. A free trial membership is also available for institutions.

Special Features

One unique advantage that the online dictionary offers over the traditional print version is quarterly updates. As mentioned previously, in 1990, a complete revision of the OED began. By the end of this painstaking process, every single entry in the dictionary will be revised. Users can expect as many as 1,000 words in each update, including both revisions and words added to the dictionary for the first time. In addition, subscribers can view revised entries alongside the originals to see the changing face of the English language.

Other features of the online version of the OED include:

  • Search - Instantly search for words in any volume of the dictionary. You can also search for words by language of origin.
  • Reverse look-up - Search for a word when you know its definition.
  • Quotation search - Find quotations by year, author and source.
  • Customized entry display - See just the information you need, with the ability to remove pronunciation, quotations and etymology data from your view of each entry.

Learning Resources

The OED online site also includes a learning resources section. Lesson ideas and worksheets, divided by grade, help teachers incorporate the Oxford English Dictionary into their classes. The "Word Stories" section shares accounts from OED researchers. A list of links provides additional sources for working with and learning about words, including some fun links to word games. Finally, a series of quizzes will send you on a scavenger hunt through the pages of the OED, looking for the answer to questions such as, "What was the original meaning of the adjective 'nice'?"

Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press also makes numerous other resources available for online research. Offerings vary by region. North and South American publications include:

  • American National Biography Online
  • Oxford Biblical Studies Online
  • Oxford Reference Online
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Oxford Digital Reference Shelf
  • Oxford Language Dictionaries Online

Some Oxford University Press sites require users to pay a subscription fee. Individuals should ask their school or library if it has an institutional license for these resources.


Whether you choose to take advantage of the official online Oxford dictionary or other resources from Oxford University Press, the amount of information at your fingertips is astounding.

Online Oxford Dictionary