Thoughts on Writing a History of the Oxford English Dictionary


I have now been researching the history of the Oxford English Dictionary for a little over a decade, at the same time as continuing to work as a member of the team of lexicographers preparing the third edition of the Dictionary. My article considers some of the challenges, frustrations, and compensations of researching and writing about the development of the project from its origins in the mid nineteenth century to the present day, and reflects on what it means to be both a lexicographical historian and a historical lexicographer. I also recount some of the discoveries I have made along the way, as well as some of the mysteries which I have not yet solved, and some aspects of the history of the OED which would benefit from further investigation.