Oxford English Dictionary

Want to know the long use of a word or when it was first introduced? Explore its many meanings? Discover what language it came from? The Oxford English Dictionary has you covered! The dictionary, published by Oxford University, aims to record the world's most-known and used English words, including slang. Each entry includes pronunciation, forms, etymology, definitions (ranked by usage, not by date), and examples of how it was used. Many terms also include a history of the word.

To use the OED in its fullest form, use the library's subscription version.  For additional assistance, use the OED help guide.

Start at Steely Library's homepage: http://steelylibrary.nku.edu
Click on the Databases tab.
Click on the letter "O" to connect to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Connected to the OED from library website

**If you are working from off-campus, you will be asked to enter your NKU username and password.

Once you enter the OED, you can search for a term directly in the search box or browse the dictionary. You can also view a historical timeline of words and discover which words were just entered in the dictionary.

To search the dictionary, enter your search term in the search box in middle left of the page and hit Go.

Oxford English Dictionary quick search

When you search for a term, usually the OED will ask for clarification. It will offer as many versions of the word as are available and will indicate the word in various forms, such as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. You will need to choose which version of the word you are searching for.

You can also use the Refine Your Search option on the right of the page or Search within the Results to narrow your results.

Refine your search in the Oxford English Dictionary

Once you know which term you'd like, click the word itself. . .

Choosing a word in the Oxford English Dictionary

. . .to be taken to the dictionary entry.

Dictionary entry in the Oxford English Dictionary

Each entry usually contains more than one definition, so be sure to scroll down to see them all.

Each entry has several key points:

  • The definition with samples of when it was used historically, usually beginning with the earliest recorded use.
  • Ability to view how to the word is presented in other language dictionaries.
    • Usually in the original language that the word came from (i.e., Middle English).
  • Indication of what version of the OED it came from.
  • The history of the word and what languages it evolved from.

The preferred entry form is an Outline but you can always choose the "Full Entry" link next to the word at the top of the page.

Choosing a full entry in the Oxford English Dictionary

The full entry displays all forms of the word, a longer etymology, and quotations:

Full entry in the Oxford English Dictionary

Once you have an entry, you can print it, email it, cite it, or save it by clicking the options at the top of the entry:

Options for a full entry in the Oxford English Dictionary

If you're having trouble, use the Ask Steely Library services.

Ask Steely Library web page

Choose a method of help: from chat, to text, to working in the library with a staff member!

Steely Library phone number:  859.572.5457