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Thursday, 31 January 2013
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First quotations
These are OED quotations which are cited in the dictionary as the first recorded usage of a word. How reliable is this evidence? Could the word have been

  • already current in spoken language?
  • used earlier in a source not read by OED?
  • or used earlier in a source read by OED but not picked up there?

We can never know that reading more widely might not produce an earlier example.

This means that first quotations are not necessarily examples of coinages: the words just happen to have been caught in this source by OED readers/lexicographers. They constitute interesting data, nevertheless, as displayed in the graphs in the subsections listed below. For further discussion see page on First quotations in our section on OED's treatment of Anna Seward.

FQ 18c sources
FQ% 18c sources
S. Richardson
FQ 1500-1899
FQ% by century

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