Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which is widely consulted by people across the globe, is a comprehensive volume of the English language. It is published by the Oxford University Press. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have already been published, while a third is underway, with one quarter of the edition completed by the editors. The idea of this dictionary was mooted by a small group of intellectuals in London, following an assessment of the shortcomings of the existing dictionaries. The contemporary dictionaries were perceived by them to be incomplete and marred with inconsistencies. This led to the beginning of massive efforts which ultimately culminated in the publishing of OED. Read on to know the detailed history of Oxford dictionary.
Interesting & Amazing Information On Origin & Background Of Oxford English Dictionary
A small group of intellectuals in London is to be credited with associating the dictionary with Oxford University. Dissatisfied with current English dictionaries, Richard Chenevix Trench, Herbert Coleridge, and Frederick Furnivall conceived the Philological Society Project, which was aimed at enlisting words not registered in the current dictionaries. They formed an “Unregistered Words Committee” in 1857 to search for words that were yet undefined in the existing dictionaries. Richard Chenevix Trench published a report the same year in November, which was not a list of unregistered words, but an insightful study on “Some Deficiencies In our English Dictionaries”. He identified seven characteristic drawbacks in contemporary dictionaries:
- Incomplete coverage of obsolete words
- Inconsistent coverage of families of related words
- Incorrect dates for earliest use of words
- History of obsolete senses of words often omitted
- Inadequate distinction among synonyms
- Insufficient use of good illustrative quotations
- Space wasted on inappropriate or redundant content.
Later, the Philological Society concluded that the number of unlisted words would far outweigh the number of total words in the 19th century English Dictionaries. Hence, the Society altered the focus from only the unlisted words to an all-inclusive project, in favor of a more comprehensive approach. Trench put forward the suggestion that a truly comprehensive dictionary was required. This idea was formally adopted by the Society on January 7, 1858. It was decided that volunteer readers would be assigned books and copy to quotation slips passages, which would illustrate actual word usages. This was then to be posted to the Dictionary editor. In 1858, the Project was finalized upon, in principle, by the Society, under the title "A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles" (NED).
Herbert Coleridge became the first editor of the dictionary. The group published some sample pages of the dictionary in April 1861. Furnivall became the new editor after Coleridge died of tuberculosis. He founded the Early English Text Society in 1864 and Chaucer Society in 1868to compile general benefit editions of pressing value to the dictionary project. James Murray succeeded Furnivall as editor and both of them started the lookout for a publisher for the Dictionary. The Dictionary was finally published by the Oxford University Press, a complete 20 years after the envisioning of the idea. Today, it is used by people all over the world, for reference purposes.