What in the world is the OED?
It’s the Oxford English Dictionary–in 20 volumes (!) plus 3 supplements, to keep it up to date. Whew.
Why would a dictionary need to have 20 (+3) volumes?
This is no ordinary dictionary, as you may have guessed.
The OED includes all the English words we use today (as of our most recent supplement, that is) PLUS all the English words that have been used in the past with examples of each use. That way, you can see how the words have changed over time. All the different spellings are also included. It’s more like an encyclopedia of English than a regular dictionary.
And, of course, it’s not just the English of the English or the North Americans we’re talking about, but also the English of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the Caribbean.
The first edition of the OED took over 70 years to write. It was published in 1928. The Second Edition, which is the one we have, was published in 1989. You can see why there have to be supplements; a lot of words have been added to the English language since 1989! (All those computer words, for example.)
To make it even better, in November of this year, the new Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary is going to be published. This is a two-volume set and took a mere 40 years to write. We have it on order.
To learn more about the history of the OED, you can visit this site.
To see the OED for yourself, visit us at the library.