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Welcome to the new OED Online

from the Editor, John Simpson


Welcome to the new OED Online web site. You'll find it quite different from the old site in many ways (new design, new functionality, etc.), but with a strong element of continuity in the form of the editorial content.

We've tried to tilt the site more towards the English language than towards the dictionary as an end in itself. Search results move from simple lists to visualizations/timelines. They can also be filtered according to a number of categories, allowing you to start off with big numbers (e.g. all English words derived from Italian), and reduce them by steps down to small, significant subsets (e.g. all English words derived from Italian from the field of Music which are first recorded in English in the 18th century). That's 167 words, starting with adagio.

Other new features include pages (updated each quarter from the dictionary data) on the OED's most-cited authors and texts, plus links to other online resources—such as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography—offering more on those who've shaped the language. There's also an ‘Aspects of English’ section, a series of descriptive articles on language, past and present. We'll be adding to this series at regular intervals, but for now how about Robert McCrum on P. G. Wodehouse's use of English (with links into the OED and elsewhere), Eleanor Maier on the rise of the ‘gate’ suffix, or a brief overview of the English of the Anglo-Saxons by the OED's Chief Etymologist, Philip Durkin.

Perhaps the most important new feature involves the Historical Thesaurus to the OED, published in book form in 2009. The entire text is now integrated with the OED Online, so that you can follow semantic links throughout the dictionary. Go to the OED's entry for utopia, for example, and follow the Thesaurus links to the entries for heaven (Old English), Cockaigne (c1305), El Dorado (1596), nonesuch (a1618), Fiddler's Green (1825), never-never land (1900), the Big Rock Candy Mountain (1917), etc. ‘Utopia’ means different things to different people!

As ever, the core of the dictionary is its content. But with the new web site this content is opened up to an extent we couldn't imagine ten years ago when the OED first went online.

The thinking behind much of the development has been to make the site easy to use. We've tried to resolve many of the complexities behind the scenes, so that you are guided through the process of investigating the language.

Take a while to familiarize yourself with the new site – it's worth it. And then come back ten minutes later when you've got something else to check!

John Simpson

Chief Editor, OED