Preface to the Second Edition (1989)
Special features of the Second Edition
The distinctive features of this edition may be described under four
headings: supplementary text, general revisions, local corrections,
and typographical format. These will be explained in turn.
- Supplementary text
- The 69,372 entries of the four-volume Supplement have
been amalgamated with the 252,259 entries of the OED, first
edition. 41,752 of these entries are new and independent; the remaining
27,620 have been integrated with the corresponding OED
entries. The principles that guided this process of integration are
- Entirely new articles dealing with an additional 5,000 words,
combinations, and senses, have been included and integrated; these are
located chiefly in the first third of the alphabet, where the work done
for the Supplement is now twenty years or more old. The
policy and history of this part of the project are set out below.
- The 260 addenda and 83 spurious entries appended to Volume XII of
the first edition have here been merged with the main text.
- 560 corrections, being chiefly earlier illustrative examples, which
were prepared for Volumes I and II of the Supplement but
not inserted there, have been included here.
- The process of integration has from time to time required that
a lexical item, treated as a subordinate part of an entry in the
OED or Supplement, should be elevated to the
status of a main entry, and this has naturally entailed the writing of
- General revisions
- IPA and stress-marked headwords. The system devised by Sir
James Murray for representing pronunciation, used in both the first
edition of the OED and the Supplement, has
now been replaced throughout the text by the International Phonetic
Alphabet. Many headwords and lexical items in the two parent works had
their stress-pattern marked by symbols placed within them, instead of
being followed by a phonetic transcription; these marks, which are
placed after the stressed vowel, have been replaced by IPA
stress-marks, which are placed before the stressed syllable. The
principles of transcription and translation followed here are described below.
- Foreign script. In its etymological material, the first edition
regularly cited foreign words in non-roman scripts; beside Greek, cited
forms in Arabic script, the Cyrillic alphabet, Devanagari, the square
Hebrew alphabet, and the Syriac script are quite usual. These were
normally, but not universally, accompanied by transliterations. Except
when citing Greek, the Supplement abandoned this practice,
giving only transliterations. It was decided to follow the latter's
practice in the present edition, considering that the dropping of the
scripts would be more straightforward than the furnishing of accurate new
non-roman forms, and that the first edition itself frequently neglected
to supply the non-roman forms. Transcriptions have been supplied wherever
they were missing in the first edition.
In quotations the presence of foreign script is, of course, an intrinsic feature; it has been preserved as far as possible, subject to constraints upon 'artwork' and special characters in general (see below).
- Illustration and special characters. The parent texts resort from time to time to the inclusion of what amount to pictorial illustrations, mainly diagrammatic or typographic in style. In the first edition a number of names for typefaces are typographically illustrated, and a few other concepts are conveyed diagrammatically. These have been omitted. Other more modest forms of illustration, which involve the use of individual special characters such as occur or might reasonably be expected to occur in the Dictionary, have been retained.
Between them, the two parent texts make use of approximately 660 characters apart from the ninety or so available on the typical keyboard. Virtually all of these have been retained, and some previously wrong have been corrected.
- Ordering of entries. The alphabetical arrangement of entries
in the OED and Supplement is to some extent
affected by the presence of special characters, accents, punctuation,
and capitalization within the headword. The principles which prevail, but
are not universally followed, in the parent texts have been standardized
throughout the present edition. As a result, certain details in the
identification of some entries differ from their counterparts in the
parent texts, and a few of these have consequently been removed some
distance from their former position.
- Ordering of senses. The sense-divisions of most entries in
the first edition and its Supplement follow a very clear
system of structural organization, as described below. The system has
been extended to the few scattered entries which were (usually for no
special reason) irregular in structure.
Entries in which a series of senses skips or duplicates a number, owing to simple editorial or typographical oversight, have been corrected.
- Cross-references. Cross-references whose targets
were changed as a result of the integration of OED
and Supplement entries have been emended as far as
possible. These changes reflect the changes to the identifying structure
of an entry, listed below.
Many of the 580,000 cross-references in the Dictionary are imprecise, citing headwords without parts of speech and homonym numbers, for example. It was impossible for the automatic cross-referencing system to determine which of two or more possible targets was the one proper to an ambiguous cross-reference of this sort, and so, on the whole, these have not been made more precise; in many cases, the intended target is obvious to the reader, and amplification would merely be fussy. There were also a fair number of cross-references which, as printed, did not match any existing headword; this was nearly always because of a slight difference in spelling. Most of these have been emended in the present edition.
- Local corrections
- The spelling of vocabulary items. Certain conventions of
spelling, as also of capitalization, hyphenation, and punctuation,
have changed since the publication of the first edition; indeed the
occurrence of some such changes is evidenced within the Dictionary
itself. Harmonization of the whole text with currently acceptable style
would have been impossible within the limits of this new edition. The
Supplement, however, indicated many changes to the spelling
of headwords, which have, of course, been effected; and an attempt has
been made to carry such changes through into derivatives and combinations
of the main words and into contiguous definitions. Other such updatings,
overlooked by the Supplement, are carried out wherever
- The main text of Dictionary entries. Innumerable small
misprints and slips have naturally been encountered, during editing,
in the definitions, etymologies, and notes which form the core of the
Dictionary text. These have been corrected.
- Quotations. The text of quotations has been carefully
protected from corruption. The working assumption was that it always
correctly reproduces the original source, however strangely it may
read. Nevertheless, an appreciable number of quotations came under
suspicion of inaccuracy, or could be clearly seen to have suffered
mutilation at the hands of compositors, and were checked and corrected
from the sources.
It was a basic, and not unreasonable, requirement of our automatic processing that quotations (with certain regular exceptions, such as those from Beowulf) must begin with a date. Dates (sometimes only approximate) were supplied by means of bibliographical investigation to the small number of quotations that were found to lack them.
- Typographical changes
- Entry spacing. In the first edition, no spacing separates
entries one from another. This edition follows the Supplement
in placing space between entries. Series of entries for variant and
obsolete forms are treated in the same way, not run on as they often
are in the first edition.
- Distinction between main and subordinate entries. The
typographical distinction in the first edition between main words and
subordinate words, by which the latter were printed in a lighter bold
type, has been given up in this edition, as it had already in the
Supplement. Such a distinction is difficult to draw up
absolutely and is, in any case, of doubtful utility.
- Distinction between headword and other bold elements. Besides
the distinction between two kinds of headword just described, the first
edition used other varieties of bold type to identify derivatives,
combinations, and variant forms of the headword, when cited with the
same entry. Derivatives were usually printed in dark bold similar to,
but smaller than, that of the headword, while combinations and variant
forms were printed in a lighter bold. The Supplement used
only a single typeface to distinguish all three from the headword. In
this edition derivatives and combinations are printed in a dark bold,
smaller than the headword, and variant spellings are printed in a
light bold. It seemed logical to symbolize in the same way what are,
in effect, subordinated headwords, but to differentiate them from the
variant spellings of the main headword.
- Italicized vocabulary items. The text of a Dictionary
definition contains numerous elements printed in italics, which fall
into several different categories of information: chiefly usage label,
cross-reference, cited linguistic form, and lexical item (such as phrase
or minor combination). This last element is of particular importance
since, like the headword, derivative, or bold combination, it constitutes
one of the keys by which the reader finds the information which he or
she is seeking. Since this kind of element is specially marked by tags
in the electronic version of the text, it seemed helpful to print it in
this edition in a special bold italic typeface, clearly setting it off
from all other italicized text.
- Capitalization of headwords. In the first edition of the
OED, every main headword was given a capital initial,
regardless of whether the word was normally so written. Most derivatives,
and many combinations, were also capitalized. The Supplement,
in accord with modern lexicographical practice, abandoned this convention,
giving a capital only where that is the normal spelling. This edition
follows the Supplement's practice.
For many words capitalization varies, either at different dates
or in different senses. Because its convention disguised the problem,
the OED often did not indicate the prevailing or preferred
style. Where the intentions of the first edition were not deducible,
as often with rare and obsolete words, decisions about capitalization
were made on the basis of the printed quotations or analogy with similar
and related words, or both.
- Abbreviations in initial letter entries. Only a small number of
abbreviations (i.e. initialisms) were listed under the entries for initial
letters in the first edition. In line with recent linguistic developments,
these lists were greatly augmented by the Supplement. But
though these abbreviations have definitions, they are not picked out
typographically in the parent texts. In this edition they are printed
in bold type for easy identification.
- Asterisks in quotation paragraphs and cross-references. In
the Dictionary, quotations illustrating a series of combinations can
be listed either in one chronological sequence, or (as is usual when
the combinations are defined) in a series of chronological sequences,
each illustrating one combination and all arranged in the alphabetical
order of the combinations. In the first edition, an asterisk was placed
in the first quotation of each sequence, marking the combination being
illustrated. In the Supplement, this convention was not
followed, because asterisks were used to mark two other features: sense
numbers that were to be intercalated into the OED sequence,
and cross-references to entries in the Supplement. As a
result of integration, the latter conventions have disappeared; but also,
many quotation series without asterisks from the Supplement
have been merged with series with asterisks from the OED. In
these cases, the asterisking convention has been carried through the whole
merged quotation paragraph. It has not, however, been introduced into
every paragraph of this kind originating in the Supplement
- Hyphenation. Unlike its parent texts, this edition has been
printed without regular line-end hyphenation. Most of the hyphens printed
are true ('hard') hyphens. This has the advantage that no extraneous
hyphens are introduced into lexical items, variant forms, or other
linguistic forms cited in the text. It also means that virtually no
merely line-end ('soft') hyphens have been introduced into the text of
quotations. Though this results in a less even layout of text on the
page than in the parent texts, it is felt that the advantages outweigh
When the text of quotations from the Dictionary was keyboarded,
hyphens occurring at line endings had to be either dropped or retained
(as 'hard' hyphens). Without consulting the original works from which
the quotations were drawn, it was sometimes impossible to decide which
would be correct, even after considering the date of the quotation,
the evidence of the other quotations from the same work, and so on. In
order to avoid a misleading decision, a special symbol (~) has been used
to replace the hyphen of the parent text. This symbol indicates nothing
more than the ambiguity of the hyphen in the parent text. It is also
occasionally used to split a bold or italic combination, a derivative,
or a word employed in a definition, for the sake of a line-break: in such
cases, it is to be understood to indicate that the word is not
normally written with a hyphen.