There are a number of foreign word and phrase dictionaries on the market, but Oxford's was compiled to keep up with the times. The contents are limited, for the most part, to words and phrases regularly encountered in 20th-century British and American English. On one page you'll find a worldly mix of "id ul-fitr" (Arabic, festival celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast), "ignoramus" (Latin, "we do not know"), "ikat" (Malay, an Indonesian decorative weave), "ikebana" (Japanese, the art of Japanese flower arrangement), and "illuminé" (French, the enlightened). From "aa" (Hawaiian, rough lava) to "Zwischenzug" (German, a determining chess move), there are 8,000 words and phrases from more than 40 languages to expand one's comprehension and broaden one's vocabulary.
Drawing 8,000 words and phrases from more than 40 languages, this new Oxford dictionary defines just about any word or phrase that has made its way into English. English has steadily absorbed foreign words, and through the nineteenth century, French and Latin have dominated the imports. The twentieth century opened English to words on a worldwide basis, many of which reflect an increasingly eclectic lifestyle, having to do with fashion, cuisine, and recreation. This dictionary "records the influx of words from a variety of other languages into both American and British English." Words that have been introduced in the twentieth century are emphasized.
Entries range from common words that seem to be completely absorbed (condominium, massage, polka) to the clearly foreign but not uncommon (bon vivant, ikebana). Others, such as pakapoo a word that is used chiefly in Australia and refers to a Chinese form of lottery--will seem exotic indeed, especially to American readers. It is hard to see how some entries meet the criterion of being words encountered in nonspecialist literature: "tokamak: a toroidal apparatus for producing controlled fusion. . . ."
Definitions are exhaustive. Changes in meaning are traced over time. Origins are succinctly yet thoroughly explored. Halva entered English from Yiddish, but Arabic and Persian supplied the source for equivalent terms in Hebrew, Greek, and Turkish. All are listed in the entry.
Separate entries are sometimes provided for plurals or other parts of speech. Spelling variants are given, sometimes as separate entries. The pronunciation guide follows the International Phonetic Alphabet system (IPA) and Southern English pronunciation. Dates are given in abbreviated form (OE for Old English, pre-1149); a table is provided in the preface. A useful appendix lists entries by country of origin and century of introduction, providing a quick grasp of the magnitude of these imports and a good overview of terms and their origins. French still predominates with more than 2,800 entries; only one word comes to us from Thai.
Entries are in boldface, followed by pronunciation, part of speech, variant spellings, date, language of origin, definition, and different meanings by date or part of speech. Miscellaneous usage and historical notes are given in bulleted paragraphs, with an occasional quotation (with date) containing the word in context. Words in small caps indicate cross-references.
The Harper Dictionary of Foreign Terms (Harper, 3d ed., 1987) has 15,000 words and phrases, usually identified and discussed in one or two lines, with no pronunciations. This new Oxford dictionary is a scholarly work, thorough, up to date, and wide-ranging. It is also excellent for general use--readers will find what they want, and more. An excellent resource for most types of libraries.
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