TIMELINES: What definitive reference book was first published Feb. 1, 1884?

February 1, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012


On Feb. 1, 1884, the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)—considered the definitive historical dictionary of the English language—is published. The idea of compiling a comprehensive historical and up-to-date English dictionary is first conceived in 1857 by the Philological Society of London. After the society determines that the existing English dictionaries at the time are either inadequate or incomplete, it decides to embark on the ambitious task of compiling a complete dictionary incorporating the entire English vocabulary reaching back as far as the Anglo-Saxon Period (1150 A.D.).


Today, the OED is still considered the definitive historical English dictionary and consists of more than 600,000 words and phrases spanning over a thousand years. As recently as last year, the OED officially added modern Internet and texting derived phrases such as “lol” (laughing out loud) and “FYI” (for your information) to the dictionary. Recently, the city of Oxford, England, submitted a bid to become the 2014 UNESCO World Book City Capital, which according to the UNESCO website, is a “symbolic acknowledgement of the best program dedicated to books and reading.”