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Home arrow OED editions, updates and revisions arrow Which edition contains what?
Which edition contains what?
OED editions and versions: which is which?

There are at least seven separate stages of the Dictionary (and arguably one might distinguish more). It is the last and current stage, OED Online, whose varying content is particularly difficult for users to get to grips with. Although it is by far the best version of OED to consult if you are looking for the most up-to-date scholarship, it contains a potentially misleading combination of old and new material - some dating from over a hundred years ago, and some composed very recently indeed. This means that users need to have a quite sophisticated grasp of the history and development of the OED in order to make the best use of its current contents. OED Online publishes a list of Dictionary milestones on its website at http://www.oed.com/public/milestones/dictionary-milestones.

The OED was first published as the New English Dictionary in separate instalments (fascicles) between 1884 and 1928, under the chief editorship of James Murray. For more information on this stage of the Dictionary see our pages beginning OED1 compilation and OED1 completion respectively.

2.1933 re-issue, with first Supplement
The first edition was re-issued in 1933, together with a 'scratch' Supplement compiled by the two surviving co-editors of OED1, W. A. Craigie and C. T. Onions (on which see EOED pages beginning here), in a thirteen-volume edition entitled:

'The Oxford English Dictionary, being a corrected re-issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, founded mainly on the materials collected by The Philological Society, and edited by James A. H. Murray, Henry Bradley, W. A. Craigie, C. T. Onions, Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1933.

In 1971 this edition was issued in a two-volume photographically reduced format.

3.1972-86 Supplement
The Supplement to the OED, edited by R. W. Burchfield, was published in 4 volumes between 1972 and 1986. Strictly speaking this was the second twentieth-century supplement, since that of Craigie and Onions was the first. Burchfield's volumes incorporate most of Craigie and Onions' work and provide additional documentation of twentieth-century words. Almost all the evidence is for words or meanings recorded after 1880: only in a tiny proportion of instances did Burchfield make any changes or additions to material already printed in OED1. The Supplement was also issued in a one-volume photographically reduced format.

The SECOND EDITION of the OED, compiled by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, was published in 20 volumes in 1989 (and also in a three-volume photographically reduced format in 1991). This merged the original OED (largely unchanged) with the 1972-86 Supplement, adding just 5,000 new words and senses (less than 1% of the original total). This means that despite its recent publication date, many of the entries in OED2 reproduce definitions and explanatory matter that are significantly - in some cases absurdly - out of date. (For example, in the entry for conservative, originally published in 1891, the Conservative Party is still referred to as 'one of the two great English political parties', while the etymology for Sapphism - first published in 1903 - refers to lesbianism as a 'vice'). Nevertheless, OED2 is the only version of OED which is currently in print, although it has now, in many respects, been superseded by the online version of the Dictionary available at www.oed.com.

For a time (March 2000 to March 2011) an electronic version of OED2, with sophisticated search tools identical to those available for OED3, was also available at www.oed.com. Very regrettably, however, OUP has withdrawn the online version of OED2 from its website, so it is now impossible to compare different versions of the Dictionary systematically, i.e. by using comparable search tools. Much of the data and analysis on Examining the OED derives from searches of OED2 (and comparisons with OED3) made before this version of OED2 was withdrawn.

In 1993 and 1997 three volumes of Additions to the Dictionary were published after OED2's appearance in 1989, consisting of further listings and new words. These are still in print.

CD Roms of OED2 were produced from 1992 onwards, in successively updated electronic formats. As editorial revisions of OED2 have appeared - first in the Additions volumes (see above) and then online (see below) - this material has been incorporated into new versions of the CD Rom. Currently (October 2011), the Version 4.0 CD Rom of OED2 'comprises the full text of the OED 2nd Edition, plus the three Additions volumes, as well as 7,000 new entries from the OED's continuing research' (see OUP information here). Unfortunately, the search tools available on the CD Rom are far less sophisticated than those online, with which one can search OED3, so detailed analysis of this partially updated form of OED2 is not possible (and one cannot use the CD Rom in any form of analysis which systematically compares OED2 with OED3, since the search interfaces are different).

For information on the seventh stage of the Dictionary, OED Online and OED3, click on Next below.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 28 December 2011 )
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