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The OED is 80: The OED and the Historical Thesaurus

By Kirsty McHugh, OUP UK

In amongst the many fascinating facts and stories around the OED that we have been hearing about during the celebrations, yesterday we also heard about an exciting project that is headed for publication in autumn 2009: the Historical Thesaurus.

Robert Faber, Editorial Director of Scholarly and General Reference, told us that the project has been in progress for decades now at my Alma Mater, The University of Glasgow, and is creating a historical thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It will be organized along thematic lines, and will be publishing in two volumes late next year. The example he used was that people would now be able to find out every word that meant “strong liquor” in the 18th century, which is the kind of thing that will be invaluable for writers, historians and many other people.

Based on the content of the currently in print second edition of the OED, its findings will eventually be incorporated into the OED online.

As a bit of a word geek myself, I’m already looking forward to see this in the flesh (paper?), especially as I remember walking past the Historical Thesaurus office at Glasgow every day for four years on my way to the student union!

Recent Comments

  1. Scott Belyea

    An interesting series of appends about the OED.

    However, my reading of them from Canada is coloured by the news that all 4 of the folks responsible for the Oxford Dictionary of Canadian English were dismissed a few days ago …

  2. Virtual Linguist

    I’m looking forward to seeing that historical thesaurus myself. I mentioned one or two of the OED’s 18th-century words for ‘liquor’ (bishop, archbishop, cardinal) in my blog post here:
    http://virtuallinguist.typepad.com/the_virtual_linguist/2008/10/that-liquor-called-bishop.html

  3. [...] to start an argument where language is concerned. Oxford University Press is soon publishing the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, a massive work that is based on more than forty years of research done at the University of [...]

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