This abridged edition of the "Oxford English Dictionary" contains 220,000 entries, and illustrates definitions with quotations which show precisely how the meanings of words have changed over the centuries. Each entry provides a wealth of information, including history and meaning, pronunciation, etymology, definitions, variant spellings, irregular inflections, quotations, idiomatic phrases and a record of the word's use.
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The Editor-In-Chief, Lesley Brown, brings over twenty years' experience of historical lexicography to the project. Her team numbered at its height sixteen lexicographers, plus numerous researchers and advisors.
The New in the title of this hefty dictionary signifies that it replaces rather than revises the The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the third edition of which was last reprinted with revised addenda in 1973. While much of this work abridges material that appeared in the second edition of The Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1989, a significant number of the words and meanings are new, and, in many instances, dates and etymologies have been revised or corrected. Although the editors of the New SOED used the OED as their foundation, they also drew on the extensive resources available in the Oxford Dictionary Department's paper files and computer databases. In addition, they consulted the files and unpublished portions of the Middle English Dictionary and A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, studied other relevant historical dictionaries, and sought the advice of a variety of language specialists.
Intended to represent "the main meanings and semantic developments of words current at any time between 1700 and the present day," the New SOED also covers words that became obsolete before 1700 but that have etymological significance or that appear in major literary sources, such as the works of Shakespeare. In contrast to the OED2, which includes 291,600 main entries and approximately 2.4 million quotations, the New SOED contains 98,000 headwords and 83,000 illustrative quotations. Since thousands of phrases, compounds, and derivatives are treated within entries, the total number of words and collocations defined is difficult to ascertain. However, the dust jacket indicates that the work contains 500,000 definitions.
In keeping with the philosophy of the OED2, the New SOED attempts to reflect not just the English of Great Britain, but the entire English-speaking world, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa, India, and the Caribbean. Entries range from obsolete words, such as abraid, characterism, leighton, and surbate to terms so new that they did not appear in the OED2, for example, bungee jumping, couch potato, cyberpunk, mudwrestling, and rollerblade. Many of the new terms deal with medical and scientific advances (e.g., angioplasty, buckyball, ibuprofen, keyhole surgery, taxol). Unfortunately, users may miss the explanations for such contemporary terms as CD-ROM, HIV, LAN, and MRI since abbreviations and acronyms appear at the beginning of each letter.
For a dictionary of the English language, this compilation includes a remarkable number of foreign terms and phrases. Although some of these are familiar (e.g., joie de vivre, Sturm und Drang, terra incognita), others are more esoteric, for example, ao dai (Vietnamese), disinvoltura (Italian), faamafu (Samoan), washi (Japanese). The New SOED also provides good coverage of major trade names, as evidenced by such entries as Barbie doll, Kodak, Rolls-Royce, and Teflon.
For each headword, the entry provides pronunciation, part of speech, date range, etymology, and a definition section in which senses are arranged in a roughly chronological sequence with the oldest sense first. Entries also frequently include illustrative quotations; phrases, compounds, and other collocations; and cross-references to other entries. Reflecting the work's British origins, words are entered under their British spellings, followed by the U.S. spellings, which are identified with an asterisk. Since pronunciation, which is indicated in the International Phonetic Alphabet, represents only British Received Pronunciation, this feature will be of little assistance to the majority of American users. The approximate date when the word was first recorded is indicated by a symbol that generally represents one-third of a century. For example, M20 stands for mid-twentieth century (1930-69).
Intended to clarify semantic distinctions and to provide examples of grammatical constructions, the illustrative quotations are provided selectively and therefore do not accompany each word or sense. Sources of quotations range from the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, and Thomas Jefferson to Adweek, Martin Luther King, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Thatcher. The majority are from nineteenth- and twentieth-century sources. Quotations are not dated as they are in the OED2, and titles of sources are provided only for Shakespeare, newspapers, and periodicals. A list of authors, periodicals, and newspapers cited appears at the end of volume 2, along with lists of books of the Bible and Shakespeare's plays.
Because the volumes are split at a logical point (volume 1 contains A-M, and volume 2, N-Z), the two-volume format does not detract from this work's usefulness. Keys to abbreviations, symbols, and pronunciation are reproduced at the front of both volumes, and abbreviated pronunciation keys appear at the bottom of each page.
The wealth of words represented in this work makes it a true treasure for historians and literary scholars as well as for general users. Readers looking for an explanation of a term in an eighteenth-century novel or for the definition of an unfamiliar word in a work by a contemporary British historian will not be disappointed. This dictionary is highly recommended for public and academic libraries that were unable to purchase the OED2 in either its print or CD-ROM versions. Due to its currency, ease of use, and reasonable price, it is also a desirable purchase for libraries that own the OED2.
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