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The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology [Hardcover]

G. W. S. Friedrichsen , R. W. Burchfield , C. T. Onions
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 May 1966 0198611129 978-0198611127 1st ed.
The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology is the most comprehensive dictionary of the English language ever published. It is based on the original edition of the Oxford English Dictionary but much augmented by further research on the etymology of English and other languages. Providing a fascinating insight into the development of English, it describes 38,000 words in 24,000 articles which include: current meanings of each word; date of first recorded appearance in English; chronology of the development of each word's senses; earliest written form in English; related words in other languages; pronunciation.

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The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology + The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1040 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st ed. edition (26 May 1966)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198611129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198611127
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 16.6 x 5.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 129,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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is going to be, as it deserves to be, the standard etymological dictionary of the English language. (Times Literary Supplement)

This is a very fine etymological dictionary, as aromatic a piece of lexicography as the great Onions (who, sadly died while the work was going through the press) ever achieved Anyone who wants to take journeys back through the mazes of the fickle human mind cannot very well do without this volume. (Anthony Burgess, Observer)

About the Author

The lexicographical labours of the late Dr C.T. Onions began when he joined the staff of the

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but desperately needs updating. 13 Feb 2012
This is a fascinating book that I can get lost in for hours. If you enjoy learning about the origins of words, then you will enjoy the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

There are a few downsides to this book though. Firstly it was published in 1966 (46 years ago) and it badly needs updating. English has changed a great deal since 1966, and the lack of modern words and modern meanings is frustrating. I don't spend my time looking up rude words, but it is noticeable that there are no swear words in this dictionary.

There are frequent times when words are written in ancient Greek, which I imagine a more modern audience might struggle with.

There are too many abbreviations, which can make understanding some descriptions difficult. In some cases it isn't immediately clear whether words in the descriptions are translations of an ancient word or part of the author's explanation for the etymology.

It is extremely expensive for what it is.

If you realise that the dictionary has a few shortcomings, and money is no object for you, then I recommend buying it. It is probably the only book I own that I could never get bored of reading.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Good dictionary to add to your bookcase if your interest extends to the origin of the English language and how it is used and changed over time. Well edited and documented.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one of the best reference books I have ever bought 11 April 2012
By Pancea
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I first purchased this book and read it, I am definitely sure that this is the one I have been looking for.

However, by the time I have studied a lot from this book, I realized that It had contained a lot of abbreviations and something difficult to understand at the beginner's level.

Not only that, but It would seem that It was written a long time ago and did not update new words which has recently formed and defined.

Nevertheless, I think that It is still a good read to look up when you wonder the origin of words. On a personal note, I place this book besdie my bed.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting! 28 Jan 2011
By mari
It is an interesting book to understand English words. Probably, it is a summary of etymological part of the Oxford English Dictionary. For foreign English learners, the book is the source of imagination and understanding of English language. It is not so expensive and is worth buying. It will help you learn English.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
142 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look Elsewhere 3 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Though the Oxford Etymology is an excellent work, it doesn't read well as a dictionary - being essentially a selection of edited etymological notes from the Original OED. The scholarship is dry, and cryptic... To appreciate this contrast, take a look at the Barnhart Etymology Dictionary, recently re-released as the Chamber's Dictionary of Etymology - with at least three times the material in terms of etymological research and definitions at less than half the price! What's especially useful for American readers is that the Barnhart / Chambers is drawn almost entirely from American sources and scholarship. IF you're only going to buy one etymology dictionary, get the Chambers - but if you're hooked, then the Oxford is an excellent adjunct to the more exhaustive Chambers/Barnhart, balancing the American scholarship with a decidedly UK English orientation.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep it in the kitchen 22 Sep 2006
By Classical Mom - Published on
We have had a copy of the Oxford Etymological Dictionary in our kitchen for past several years because over the dinner table, inevitably, one of our children asks, "where does that word come from?" We were tired of running in and out of the living room to find out. Now it has become a game -- who can come up with a probable root before whoever is looking it up finds the real answer. No, we don't home school. Our children are still young -- 12 and 9. I have occasionally caught my 12 year old just wallowing in this book, and she is normal in every other way.

Don't compromise because something seems a little difficult to access! The more you use it, the more comfortable you'll be with it. This, along with S.I. Hayakawa's Choose the Right Word, are two veritable smorgasbords for word lovers. A good atlas is a good thing to have on hand as well.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great to just browse through... 24 Oct 1999
By K - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...or read, or skip from thought to thought with.
The defintions are extremely concise and the etymology section for each word is often also brief. Longer entries occur when a story or individual or specific event is behind the word. Nice and readable printing and a nice, small, thick size. As far as I can tell, this book has not been updated since publication in the sixties; okay by me because words coined since then can be researched using the net.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference work. 9 Jun 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
This is a wonderful book of etymology. I don't understand why one person is complaining about abbreviations. If you have an interest at all in etymology, which I assume you do if you bought this book, then you should know F. stands for French, OF stands for Old French, OE, ME, are Old and Middle English, etc. Not hard. I never memorized anything and with no previous training, was quite capable of easily discerning word origins.
And for the guy that couldn't find police roots, what book were you looking in? The entry for police does give an alternate pronunciation, then gives the changes in definition from 16th century to modern times. Then it shows the formation of the word starting with F. back to medL. then to L. politia. Maybe he was confused because it did not show the relation to Greek -polis he seemed to be expecting. While they probably share a root much farther back, this book tends to stop at the Latin or OE root. Because to go any further I suppose you would be talking Indo-European.
I would also like to point out that English does not derive from Latin, that's why it stops at the OE root sometimes. We have borrowed many words from Latin, some which came into our language after the French. If you do not realize this, I suggest you get an introduction to English History. Otherwise, many things in this dictionary will apparently leave you frustrated.
I do not have the other dictionary recommended here. I was given the Oxford one as a Christmas present, and I love it. Certainly, there are not nearly enough words in it for me, but I feel that would be the case regardless. It is well written, and easy to read ,which is a plus as I have terrible eyes. Possibly the other is better, I plan to buy it anyway, because the more the merrier. Also, this ODEE now has a rather smart blue dust jacket, which looks much better than the picture shown here. Without a doubt though, this is the crown jewel of my reference selection.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Etymonline dot com is a much better source 6 Jan 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Go to ETYMONLINE dot com, and give the creator at least half the cost of this book. No cryptic entries there; all words and phrases are traced to their origins, and even compared with other Indo-European langauges like Persian and Sanskrit. All entries being hyper-linked, navigation is so much easier from one word to other related words.

Some P's & C's of this book:

Physical copy is always handy
Meanings of words given, just like a dictionary, in addition to their etymology.

Entries are abbreviated too much, hence cryptic
Etymology generally not traced to other Indo-European cognates.
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