Five uses for a dictionary you never knew about

You use a dictionary to look up meanings and spellings, and, well that’s about it, isn’t it?

Not with the Oxford English Dictionary it isn’t. Here are five ways to use the OED online you maybe didn’t know about. Log on with your library card and try them for yourself:

1. Find words the same age as you

Use the ‘date of entry’ field in the advanced search to see which word were first used in a given year. So, for example, if we look for 1985 we come up with a list including annus horribilis,snowboard and double click.

2. Finish that crossword

Use question marks instead of blanks in the search box and you’ll have the s?l??ion in no time!

3. Is there a word for…?

If you want to find out the proper word for a beer mat collector, or the term for believing yourself to be a werewolf, this is the quickest way to do it: select ‘definitions’ from the advanced search drop-down menu and type in the words (beer matswerewolf) you’d expect to find in the definition.

4. When did we start “photo bombing”?

The ‘first cited work’ option in the drop down menu allows you to explore which publication or broadcast was the first to use a certain word or term.

5. For anoraks

The advanced search option allows you to search by language – so you can find out which everyday words have their origins in Japanese, German, or in the case of ‘anorak’ Greenland Eskimo.


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