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There are several ways to browse OED Online:

Dictionary Browse the dictionary from A to Z.

Categories Browse words by subject, usage, region, or origin.

Timelines Discover when words entered the English language.

Sources Explore the top 1,000 authors and works quoted in the OED.

Historical Thesaurus A taxonomic organization of all the contents of the OED.

The Browse panel is in the centre of the Home page and in the top right-hand corner of every other page.



To browse the A-to-Z dictionary entries, much as you would a printed dictionary:

  1. Choose Dictionary from the Browse panel.
  2. A list of entries beginning with A, n. is displayed. Each consists of the headword (the name of the entry) and the entry's first line.
  3. Browse the list using the cursor and/or Next » and « Previous.
  4. To view an entry from the list, click on its headword.
  5. To move quickly to a point in the results list, type the letter you want into the "jump to alphabetical..." input box and click . E.g. typing g moves the list to the first matching entry beginning with g.
  6. The standard number of results is 20 per page, but you can alter this (up to a maximum of 100) by clicking one of the Items per page options.

The word wheel

You can also browse the entries using the word wheel.

The word wheel, headed Jump to:, contains the list of all the entries in the dictionary. It always opens with the most recently viewed entry highlighted in the centre of the list. Click on any entry to display it.

Browse the word wheel:

  • A page at a time using arrows at the top and bottom of the list
  • By typing the first few letters of the word you want into the input box above the list. The wheel will move to the closest match keyed in.



To browse the dictionary's categories:

  1. Choose Categories from the Browse panel.
  2. A list of categories is displayed, divided into Subject, Usage, Region and Origin. If a category can be expanded it is marked with a .
  3. Choose a category by clicking on it.
  4. The matching entries are listed in the results list.
  5. To view an entry from the list, click on its headword.

Note that:

  • The number next to a category indicates the number of matching results.
  • Results are given as senses.


Timelines are a graphical representation showing when words and senses are first recorded in the English language.

To browse OED Online's timelines:

  1. Choose Timelines from the Browse panel.
  2. Choose a category from the tabs headed Subject, Region, and Origin.
  3. Select a category from the drop-down menu or click on the  icon to view further sub-categories.

  4. Hover over the bars to see the number of results for that bar and a selection of sample words.
  5. Click the bar to view the results in Advanced Search Results.

The period represented by the width of each bar is 50 years by default. It can be adjusted to intervals of 10, 50 or 100 years using the Century options at the bottom of the timeline.

The height of the bar indicates the number of results for that period.


You can browse the top 1,000 sources in the OED by choosing Sources from the Browse panel.

A list of sources is displayed, numbered from 1  to 1,000, with information in columns about dates, total number of quotations, the number of times each source is cited as the first evidence for a word, and the number of times it is cited as the first evidence for a sense.

The sources are ordered by the total number of quotations by default. Click on any of the column headings to order the sources by the criteria in that column. One click will sort the column in ascending order. A second click will sort the column in descending order.

Searching within the top 1000 sources

To look for a word or string in the list of sources, type it into the Search box at the top of the list, and click . Any matching sources are displayed in the list. To return to the full list, click X Clear Search.

Historical Thesaurus

The Historical Thesaurus is a taxonomic classification of the majority of senses and lemmas in OED Online. It can be thought of as a kind of semantic index to the contents of the OED.

The Historical Thesaurus can be used in OED Online to navigate around the dictionary by topic, find related terms, and explore the lexical history of a concept or meaning.

Each class (a list of senses and lemmas sharing a particular meaning) is arranged chronologically, giving a historical overview of the concept represented by that class.

To start using the Historical Thesaurus:

  1. Choose Historical Thesaurus from the Browse panel.
  2. Select a topic from one of the three main categories (the external world, the mind, society) and browse its tree of subclasses. Click on the  symbol next to any class to expand it.
  3. When a subclass contains entries, these are displayed in the panel on the right. Click on an entry's headword to open it at the relevant sense.

Sorting Thesaurus entries

The entries in a subclass are displayed in order of date. To switch to viewing them alphabetically, click A-Z.

Searching the Historical Thesaurus

To search for a term in the Thesaurus, type the word or phrase you want to find into the Search box and click  .

There are three options:

  • Words searches for your term as a dictionary entry (e.g. a search for egg finds this term listed as an entry, or a sense of an entry, in 13 classes).
  • Headings searches subclass headings (e.g. a search for egg finds this term used in the headings of 4 classes).
  • Both searches both Words and Headings.

The Thesaurus search returns matching subclasses with the matched term in red. The subclasses are highlighted on mouseover. Click anywhere in the highlighted area to view the selected subclass.

Printing a list of results

To print the results of a Thesaurus search, click Print. The list of results is displayed in a separate tab in your browser in a format suitable for printing.

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