Originally estimated to be a ten-year project, the first portion (or ‘fascicle’, to use the technical term) of the Oxford English Dictionary appeared this day in 1884, only covering up to the word ant. It was then clear to James A. H. Murray and his team that the New English Dictionary (as it was then known) would amount to much more than the originally planned four-volume, 6,400-page work designed to include all English language vocabulary from the Early Middle English period (1150 AD) onward, plus some earlier words.
Now, over 150 years after the idea for the OED was born, we’ve relaunched the online iteration of this authoritative and comprehensive record of the English language at OED.com/
Developing the OED Online: Project Director Robert Faber & James McCracken Publication Editor
“What we’re trying to realize is what the OED has always been in potential, a sort of treasure house of linguistic and cultural history that can be explored along thousands of different routes.”
The Making of the OED, 3rd ed, from tesserae to mosaic : Chief Editor John Simpson