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Illustrative Examples and the Oxford Dictionaries

In England, progress in lexicography since Walker's time has been notably in the collection and organization of examples of usage. In 1836–37, Charles Richardson (1775–1865) published, in two volumes, a dictionary richer in illustrative examples than any of its predecessors. In 1857 the Philological Society began collecting dated examples of usage. This work of the Philological Society made possible the publication of the dictionary variously known as the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and Murray's Dictionary (for Sir James A. H. Murray, 1837–1915, one of the editors). Publication of this dictionary began in 1884 and was completed in 1928, 70 years after the collecting of the material began. The 12 volumes and supplement of this monumental and unrivaled lexicon described the history of some 250,000 English words, incorporating more than 2 million citations of usage in the process of defining a total of nearly 415,000 words. A 20-volume second edition, published in 1989, incorporates the four-volume supplement and contains over 616,000 words. Two major shorter editions are published: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (5th ed. 1964) and the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (rev. ed. 1993). A much less ambitious but notable project is the four-volume Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles, edited by Sir William Alexander Craigie. It was completed in 1943.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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