This useful book explains the meaning of English words, but only in the course of giving a very concise history, uncluttered by quotations and examples of usage, of how they came to mean what they do. Look up 'egregious', for instance, and you discover that its current meaning of 'remarkably bad' has somehow morphed from an original meaning of 'remarkably good', probably via an ironic usage of the former. In general, it's fascinating to be reminded of how many English words have a root in Old English. And perhaps surprising to find how many 'slang' usages which seem very modern actually originate in the 1920s and 1930s ('funny money', and 'fuzz' meaning police, for instance). It's both a valuable resource for reference, and almost endlessly intriguing to dip into in a serendipitous way.
About the Author
Glynnis Chantrell is Senior Editor in the English Language Teaching department at OUP. For several years she was Senior Editor in the Dictionaries department, working on many books including the Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th edn), and the New Oxford Dictionary of English (responsible for Word Histories). Glynnis taught modern languges for many years, and is multi-lingual. She has taught at every level, including adults.