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The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology

3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198611127
ISBN-10: 0198611129
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Dr. C.T. Onions first joined the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1895. He worked on the OED, the Shorter OED, and then published his Shakespeare Glossary in 1911. A wonderful and learned scholar, he died in 1966 as the first edition of The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology was going to press. Assisted by G.W.S. Friedrichsen and R.W. Burchfield, Onions created a magnificent work of erudition, with 24,000 main entries. Including their derivatives, the dictionary delves into the origins of more than 38,000 words.

For each entry, the dictionary provides the correct pronunciation, followed by a short definition, and the century and source of the word's first recording. Then come the etymological notes. Thus one learns that "froth" (an aggregation of small bubbles on liquid) was first noted in the 14th century, in Sir Gawain and the Bible, that it comes from the Old Norse frooa, and was taken from there into German (fraup) and Old English (froth). Now in its fifth printing and a standard reference for scholars, Onions's opus is still the most comprehensive etymological dictionary of English ever to be published. --Stephanie Gold

Review

ODEE is going to be, as it deserves to be, the standard etymological dictionary of the English language. Times Literary Supplement This is a very fine etymological dictionary, as aromatic a piece of lexicography as the great Onions (who, sadly died while the work was going through the press) ever achieved Anyone who wants to take journeys back through the mazes of the fickle human mind cannot very well do without this volume. Anthony Burgess, Observer
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1042 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 31, 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198611129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198611127
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 2 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on April 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Though the Oxford Etymology is an excellent work, it doesn't read well as a dictionary - being essentially a selection of edited etymological notes from the Original OED. The scholarship is dry, and cryptic... To appreciate this contrast, take a look at the Barnhart Etymology Dictionary, recently re-released as the Chamber's Dictionary of Etymology - with at least three times the material in terms of etymological research and definitions at less than half the price! What's especially useful for American readers is that the Barnhart / Chambers is drawn almost entirely from American sources and scholarship. IF you're only going to buy one etymology dictionary, get the Chambers - but if you're hooked, then the Oxford is an excellent adjunct to the more exhaustive Chambers/Barnhart, balancing the American scholarship with a decidedly UK English orientation.
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Format: Hardcover
We have had a copy of the Oxford Etymological Dictionary in our kitchen for past several years because over the dinner table, inevitably, one of our children asks, "where does that word come from?" We were tired of running in and out of the living room to find out. Now it has become a game -- who can come up with a probable root before whoever is looking it up finds the real answer. No, we don't home school. Our children are still young -- 12 and 9. I have occasionally caught my 12 year old just wallowing in this book, and she is normal in every other way.

Don't compromise because something seems a little difficult to access! The more you use it, the more comfortable you'll be with it. This, along with S.I. Hayakawa's Choose the Right Word, are two veritable smorgasbords for word lovers. A good atlas is a good thing to have on hand as well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...or read, or skip from thought to thought with.
The defintions are extremely concise and the etymology section for each word is often also brief. Longer entries occur when a story or individual or specific event is behind the word. Nice and readable printing and a nice, small, thick size. As far as I can tell, this book has not been updated since publication in the sixties; okay by me because words coined since then can be researched using the net.
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Format: Hardcover
Go to ETYMONLINE dot com, and give the creator at least half the cost of this book. No cryptic entries there; all words and phrases are traced to their origins, and even compared with other Indo-European langauges like Persian and Sanskrit. All entries being hyper-linked, navigation is so much easier from one word to other related words.

Some P's & C's of this book:

PROS:
Physical copy is always handy
Meanings of words given, just like a dictionary, in addition to their etymology.

CONS:
Entries are abbreviated too much, hence cryptic
Etymology generally not traced to other Indo-European cognates.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book of etymology. I don't understand why one person is complaining about abbreviations. If you have an interest at all in etymology, which I assume you do if you bought this book, then you should know F. stands for French, OF stands for Old French, OE, ME, are Old and Middle English, etc. Not hard. I never memorized anything and with no previous training, was quite capable of easily discerning word origins.
And for the guy that couldn't find police roots, what book were you looking in? The entry for police does give an alternate pronunciation, then gives the changes in definition from 16th century to modern times. Then it shows the formation of the word starting with F. back to medL. then to L. politia. Maybe he was confused because it did not show the relation to Greek -polis he seemed to be expecting. While they probably share a root much farther back, this book tends to stop at the Latin or OE root. Because to go any further I suppose you would be talking Indo-European.
I would also like to point out that English does not derive from Latin, that's why it stops at the OE root sometimes. We have borrowed many words from Latin, some which came into our language after the French. If you do not realize this, I suggest you get an introduction to English History. Otherwise, many things in this dictionary will apparently leave you frustrated.
I do not have the other dictionary recommended here. I was given the Oxford one as a Christmas present, and I love it. Certainly, there are not nearly enough words in it for me, but I feel that would be the case regardless. It is well written, and easy to read ,which is a plus as I have terrible eyes. Possibly the other is better, I plan to buy it anyway, because the more the merrier. Also, this ODEE now has a rather smart blue dust jacket, which looks much better than the picture shown here. Without a doubt though, this is the crown jewel of my reference selection.
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Format: Hardcover
This book could be useful for a serious etymologyst, but it is very difficult to decifer unless you are willing to spend hours learning all of the abbreviations. It is organized like a dictionary. The entries give the current dictionary definition of each word, and then proceed to trace the evolution of the word. This evolution is often difficult to understand because of the previously mentioned abbreviations. This book is for a dedicated linguist, or someone with much patience and time
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