Love the etymology of words? Or just love words, full stop?

You may be interested to hear that OED Online, aka the Oxford English Dictionary’s website, has had a complete overhaul – the site relaunched in December, and Kim Hill interviewed the Dictionary’s Deputy Editor on National Radio’s Saturday program back in early December. The library subscribes to OED Online so that all cardholders can access it for free either in the library or from home – so log in and have a look around. You can access it here.

Here’s what the Dictionary’s Chief Editor, John Simpson, had to say about the changes:

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. […] 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

Looking around online, there seems to be a lot of excitement about the relaunch – Bits, the New York Times‘s technology podcast recently interviewed Dr. Simpson as well. 

Related links:

  • My Favourite Word – a site where people can contribute their favourite English word. Look some of these up in OED Online! Recent contributions include ‘sinople’ and ‘incandescent’.
  • Mum’s the word, says the world – via the BBC, from 2004. Mother is the most beautiful word in the English language, according to a survey of non-English speakers.

Just found a nice phrase as well – etymology of the English language described as “the wheel-ruts of modern English” 🙂