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English Language: a short guide to online resources: Dictionaries

Subjects: English

Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 500,000 words - past and present - from across the English-speaking world. The OED Online also features the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, which arranges the dictionary by meaning. 

N.B. The current online version of the OED is derived from the printed second edition of 1989, which is in turn based on the original edition published 1884-1928. A full revision of the OED for its third edition began in the late 1990s. This is a large-scale, long-term undertaking. As of 2022, just over half of entries in the online edition have been updated. The dates of the latest upload for each entry can be seen at the top right of each page (in blue font). However, bear in mind that not all entries have been fully revised since their publication (apart from bibliographical standardisation), so it is always worth checking the latest date of quotations provided to illustrate a word's use, in order to ascertain how up-to-date the entry is as a whole, including the definitions and editorial comments, if any. 

Oxford Reference

Oxford Reference brings together over 2 million entries from across Oxford's Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Companions. 

It allows you to search across hundreds of different language dictionaries including American, Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand English.  You can also browse or search many subject specific dictionaries such as Dictionary of Literary Terms, Dictionary of critical theory, Dictionary of Drama.


Lexicons of Early Modern English

Lexicons of Early Modern English is a historical database of monolingual, bilingual, and polyglot dictionaries, lexical encyclopedias, hard-word glossaries, spelling lists, and lexically-valuable treatises surviving in print or manuscript from about 1475 to 1755.


Middle English Dictionary (Middle English Compendium)

The Middle English Dictionary offers a comprehensive analysis of lexicon and usage for the period 1100-1500. This electronic version of the MED preserves all the details of the print MED, but is searchable in ways impossible within any print dictionary.


The MED is part of the Middle English Compendium, which has been designed to offer easy access to and interconnectivity between three major Middle English electronic resources: an electronic version of the Middle English Dictionary, a HyperBibliography of Middle English prose and verse, based on the MED bibliographies, and a Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, as well as links to an associated network of electronic resources.

Johnson's Dictionary

The full page image scans of Johnson's Dictionary are available via Eighteenth Century Collections Online. You can also access a transcribed version at - not all entries have yet been transcribed.

Johnson's Dictionary Online is an easily searchable version of the first edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language. It allows you to view entires online and see a scan of the original page entry.