- Hardcover: 22000 pages
- Publisher: Clarendon Press; 2 edition (March 30, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198611862
- ISBN-13: 978-0198611868
- Product Dimensions: 16 x 20 x 18 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 pounds
- Shipping Advisory: This item must be shipped separately from other items in your order. Additional shipping charges will not apply.
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Oxford English Dictionary (20 Volume Set) (Vols 1-20) 2nd Edition
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The Oxford English Dictionary has long been considered the ultimate reference work in English lexicography. Compiled by the legendary editor James Murray and a staff of brilliant philologists and lexicographers (not to mention one homicidal maniac), the OED began as a a supplement to existing dictionaries, so that, as one lexicographer put it, "every word should be made to tell its own story." Enthusiastic readers sent Murray definitions and examples on identical slips of paper in response to a letter of appeal in 1879. By the time the last volume was published in 1928, the dictionary had swelled from 4 to 10 volumes containing over 400,000 entries. In the years since, the staff of the OED has continued to keep pace with our ever-evolving language, and today the dictionary weighs in at a whopping 20 volumes. The great joy of this dictionary lies in its extensive cross-references and word etymologies, which can run a full page or more. These features not only make the OED the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of the English language, but a delight to browse.
What writers like most about the Oxford English Dictionary
|"I’m tempted to say that I love the OED because it contains every word in Middlemarch and To the Lighthouse, minus the unnecessary ones. I suspect, however, that that’s probably a familiar joke in dictionary circles."--Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours|
|"The Oxford English Dictionary lets me follow the roots of words into the loamy depths of language. It lets me feel the abiding, generative life in it, the mysteries of its persistence and renewal."--Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Home|
|"The OED is one of my favorite ways of avoiding writing, which under other circumstances can be tortuous. But not with the OED. To begin, I look up a word. Then I get interested in its derivation, which suggests another word, another derivation, another word--Wow!"--Jeanne Marie Laskas, author of The Exact Same Moon|
Listen: the OED is priceless. The only disadvantage it's got is that the entries are so interesting and chocked with subsidiary info that sometimes what was originally supposed to be a quick one-word dash to the dictionary becomes a two-hour perusal of cross-references and ramifications and etymologies and the sorts of illustrative sentences that make your saliva flow with sheer interest. -- David Foster Wallace, novelist
Rummaging through the OED is as addicting as any narcotic. I ordered it originally to sell in my bookshop because I thought it would make a substantial statement about the quality of my books. Within a couple of months, though, I decided I treasured it too much to sell and took it home to keep. -- Thomas Brennan, owner, The Book Review, Atlanta, GA.
"Being the most expansive and exhaustive not to mention the most fun of all English dictionaries, its the finest testament I know to everything I love (and, all right, occasionally hate) about words."--Michael Cunningham (celebrated author of The Hours)
"Word lovers, the gods are smiling upon you. It no longer takes a small mortgage, or at least a trip to the library, to plumb the Oxford English Dictionary--the big one, not the abridged training-wheels versions. For its 75th anniversary since the last volume of the First Edition was published, Oxford University Press has knocked down the prices big time."--Chicago Sun-Times
"With its exhaustive definitions and precise etymology, the Oxford English Dictionary is absolutely indispensable to our work here at Jeopardy!"--Gary Johnson, Jeopardy! Supervising Producer/Writer
"The richest people in the world are those who have the OED on their shelves. Here is the greatest treasure of words waiting to be assembled into fiery tracts and rants, literary novels, histories, sagas, comic poems, exposes, polemics, tall tales and learned treatises, kids' books, advert copy, reports on busted dams and declarations, all the expressions of a hundred different cultures. And the sturdy boxes in which the dictionary comes are each the perfect size for a manuscript. So there it is, all the raw material a writer needs for a lifetime of work."--Annie Proulx
"Since my Milton teacher sent me to the OED at the start of my college career, that vast and virtuous monument has been an almost daily companion. It's far the most important of my reference aids; and of all things for a dictionary, it's proved likewise a steady source of surprise and delight."--Reynolds Price
"When I first got the OED I read it through from A to Z. I wondered which word had the greatest coverage, and in Volume VIII (Q-Sh), I found it: 'set.' More than a hundred and twenty meanings were given for the verb 'set' used alone; another thirty or so when used in conjunction with various prepositions and adverbs (set aside, set about, set apart, etc.). I got the feeling that this little three-letter word might be the most useful and versatile in the entire English language."--Oliver Sacks
"The OED has been to me a teacher, a companion, a source of endless discovery. I could not have become a writer without it. "--Anthony Burgess
"No similar work, not even the great Lexicon of the brothers Grimm, is comparable to [the OED] in magnitude, accuracy, or completeness. It is one of the monuments to the patient persistence of scholarship and one of the most sterling illustrations of that strange piety which only scholars can understand."--The Nation
"No one who reads or writes seriously can be without the OED."--The Washington Post
"In all probability, the greatest continuing work of scholarship that this century has produced."--Newsweek
"It is a remarkable work of scholarship, and must rank high among the wonders of the world of learning."--The Times Educational Supplement
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Top Customer Reviews
Perhaps you worry that it might be an unwise purchase. We live in the age of the CD ROM, so why buy the printed volumes? The language seems to operate like a wheel rolling down a muddy slope picking up all manner of accretions as it progresses downhill. Will a work like this, then, become irrelevant? I think not. The citation formula used will always be relevant for readers interested in historical usage. The entire work constitutes, in a way, a history of the English Language, as well as a social history of English speaking peoples from the 12th century through to the end of the 20th century. Some scholars say it is unduly biased in the direction of English Victorian values, with a creeping pre-disposition toward a prescriptive rather than a descriptive stance on definitions. The compilers seem to want to position it to be a final arbiter on "Correct Usage". Who cares? It is manna in the wilderness to anyone who loves the language, who likes to browse, and is not stimulated by the inanity of television. If Political Correctness is the filter through which all literature must pass for you, you'll probably not read very much of value, anyway.
No other dictionary is so richly enjoyable as a work to read on its own. One does not go to the OED just to find the meaning of a word, one is beguiled, on opening a volume, to read many pages about all kinds of words. You'll never walk into the British Museum or the Louvre just to look at a single piece of Art and leave having looked only at that one piece. Here is the great exhibition of the language, its gallery.
All speakers and students of the language are in Oxford's debt, and will forever be so. No dictionary comes close in comprehensiveness of coverage (its word count, i.e., the quantity of words defined, exceeds that covered in any other competing dictionary). This set, rightly, is the central jewel in OUP's crown of publications. If you're a writer, you can't afford not to purchase this set.
Legend has it that a new "improved" edition will be out some time between 2001 and 2003. I sense that the improvements will appeal particularly to the ultra-scholarly linguist/lexicographers among its readers. Improvements shall include the addition of citations that might, for instance, antedate the earliest citation shown in a previous edition. It might, however, not be utterly essential to you you to know, for example, that the first user of the term "Byronic" was Byron himself. The changes from the 2nd to the 3rd edition may be minimal, in print at least. Doubtless, there will be significant improvements to the search capability, appearance, and user friendliness of the software version. But, don't hesitate to purchase the printed 2nd edition. If you feel the CD ROM version is superior to the printed edition, this will boil down to whether or not you are a bibliophile. Nothing equals the tactile pleasure of the printed page, bound well. OED 2 is one of the handsomest printing jobs I've ever seen. The cloth binding is extremely rugged and well designed, elegant and solidly conservative in physical appearance. The paper is itself bright and smooth, the font/type clear and eminently readable. Even the dust jackets are beautiful, a real improvement over the previous design. "Additions" volumes (times 3) are available for anyone interested in the vocabulary of the 90s. The 3rd edition will integrate these into the main work. But, a dictionary in the hand is worth two in the planning stage. And the beautiful volumes of the 2nd edition are available from Amazon.com at what amounts to bargain price.
Buy this wonderful, beautifully produced and enduring work; it is a treasure for life that will never fail to impress you with the alluring beauty and quirky mutability of this most glorious of languages.
Aside from the obvious depth of this dictionary, it's greatest benefits are the examples of usage drawn from throughout printed history.
If you've ever been disgusted after being unable to find a word in some other dictionary, and thought to yourself, "What self-respecting dictionary doesn't have (insert sought word here)!", I can assure you that it will never happen again if you get this book.
If you're thinking that the magnifying glass business is unworkable or unwieldy, think again. You've basically got 4 pages on each (oversize) page. For quick reading, I can do without the magnifying glass. For digging deep into the definition, it works like a charm.
Although I appreciate the efforts of the OED to put so much material into one book, the product is just too unwieldy - to hold, to read, to carry around. In addition to the print being tiny, the book is huge. It's nice as an object, but as a functional dictionary it proves to be rather inconvenient - especially if you don't have a nice big stand for it to rest on, which I don't.
I really dislike staring at a computer screen, and prefer to get a paper copy of any text if at all possible - but for the OED that isn't economically feasible. I didn't want the abridged version, and buying all twenty volumes is prohibitively expensive - so I really do recommend the CD Rom version or subscribing to the dictionary online if you have Internet access. You can't really browse in those, which is too bad, but you can't really browse while trawling around this Lilliputian thicket of letters with a magnifying glass either.
The electronic sources have the additional feature of being searchable by multiple terms, so you can find quotes from a particular author, or book - and many other things that aren't possible with paper.
Buy this if you only plan on dipping into it on rare occasions, and want a lovely object, but there are better options for people really hoping to use it as a dictionary.