on 31 January 2006
Just to clear up any confusion you might have: this is a very different dictionary to the Oxford English Dictionary. This work (the New Oxford Dictionary of English - commonly abbreviated as the NODE) is intended as a reference for contemporary English usage; hence, for instance, it contains a definition for "minger" and defines "they" as both the third person plural and third person non-gender-specific singular pronoun. If you believe that dictionaries should be prescriptive rather than descriptive this will be anathema to you. If, however, you belong to the descriptive camp (or indeed want to understand what your grandchildren are saying) you'll love it.
The dictionary is layed out in 3 columns per page, the columns are about the right width for my taste but if you're used to large 2-column dictionaries you mat find them too small.
A nice touch is the vowel and consonant pronunciation symbol guides; they're repeated in the bottom margin throughout the book, which makes looking them up a lot more convenient than if they were hidden in an appendix. I also like the markers for each letter which are visible from the outside, they make finding the right place from scratch a lot more convenient.
The binding is very good: the dictionary stays open at the page you left it, and the central margins are wide enough that there is no difficulty reading to the edges of the inner columns. The paper is quite thin, as it has to be to fit 2088 pages into a reasonable-sized volume; that said, the pages are nicely opaque and it doesn't feel as though they will be easily torn in normal use.
[This review is based on the 2005 2nd edition. I'm confident that the 2010 3rd edition will be just as good.]
Beats the competition (Chambers Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary) on price (when I wrote this ...) and on competence as a dictionary. The encyclopaedic entries are better than Collins (which ignores people for this purpose) and Chambers which simply doesn't have any.
Definitions are clear, there are 20-odd appropriate appendices, and some daft stories like "Port out, Starboard home" are quietly dealt with. Sample definition differences: "axel" (ice skating jump) - Oxford and Collins name the edges involved, whereas Chambers just says "from one skate to the other"; trombone (shape thereof): Chambers has the tube "bent twice on itself, with a slide", Collins has "a tube, the effective length of which is varied by means of a U-shaped slide", and Oxford has "straight tubing in three sections, ending in a bell over the player's left shoulder, different fundamental notes being made using a forward-pointing extendable slide". Oxford's seems clearest, with "extendable" a crucially important word in conveying what happens, and the right sense of "bell" clearly explained too.
There are informative usage notes dealing with issues like the difference between life assurance and life insurance, the incorrectness of "you should of asked" (under "of", and cross-referenced under "should"), confusions like site/sight and your/you're, sensitive stuff like Lapp/Sami, informal words like "innit", and grammar niggles like "a sandwich or other snack is included" vs. "a sandwich and other snack are included". Looking at a random selection of these, every one seems both appropriate and based on experience of mistakes that people make or questions that often arise. There are also short factual notes about all sorts of topics - as the dictionary's introduction recognises, these are arguably content for an encyclopaedia rather than a dictionary, but they don't seem to get in the way. Examples: blood - what it's made of and what roles the components play, and its former role as a "bodily humour"; Beethoven - his main works, special nature of the 9th symphony, and bridging role between classical and romantic movements; Barium - what some of its compounds are used for; Bangladesh - dates when it broke away from Pakistan and joined the Commonwealth; black holes - a crisp explanation of how they ("probably") work.
All-in-all great compromise between the scholarship of the OED and the common sense of the Concise Oxford. Unless you're mad about crosswords or other word games based on Chambers, once you've got this you're set up with a dictionary which will serve all purposes for a couple of decades at least.
It may seem odd that there's no "Look Inside" option for this book. But there's great substitute - if you search the web for "Oxford Dictionaries", you'll find the new Oxford Dictionaries Online website which uses this dictionary as its source (for the "World English" option).
on 16 October 2004
Precise, comprehensive, meticulous, rich: for extent and scope - the only single volume dictionary of English to own.
Editors Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson have revised and updated the pioneering work of Judy Pearsall (Editor) and Patrick Hanks (Chief Editor, Current English Dictionaries) who led production of the outstanding 'The New Oxford Dictionary of English' in 1998.
This revision builds upon that body of work - adding 3,000 fresh words, senses and phrases. The editors and their team drew upon a new 100 million word Oxford English corpus. As with the 1998 dictionary, it focuses its definitions on current usage.
What gives this indispensable breadth and depth is its layout of core senses and subsenses within each definition and the provision of word history: etymology (word origin) and morphology (word form) as well as reference to development of both sense and form.
This provides a rich reference work that would strengthen anyone's vocabulary and sharpen accuracy of expression.
Surely as a living language flows through everyday life, such dictionaries help fight the mudslides?
Its sibling Thesaurus is equally worthwhile, having also undergone useful revision and improvement.
This edition also adds usage guidance where prudent and includes new Appendices: a very useful 'Guide to Good English' and encyclopaedia like information (including: countries and their capitals; States of the USA; weights & measures; punctuation marks; alphabets; the chemical elements; data on the solar system; proofreading marks; Prime Ministers and Presidents; Internet Forum & Chatroom keystroke emoticons :~) and shorthand ('FYI' etc); collective nouns; and even categories of wind forces!).
While it might retain the typical dryness and staidness of the OED, this volume surely sets a global standard for single volume works. The OED might occasionally omit some shades of meaning in current usage and be slow to take up new words due to its staff being too academic by nature and somewhat out of touch with new informal usages and words entering the language.
Would a cyberskiving chav own a dictionary? ; P
on 4 September 2011
Dictionary and part encyclopedia (also spelt: encyclopaedia) as a reference tool this is fantastic. I am doing an Open University degree and this dictionary is a must, it provides complete definitions and guides on word usage. If you like provoking an argument amongst language snobs this is a mine of useful ammunition. Every curious mind should have a copy.
on 23 May 2015
My 83 year old mother asked me to write this review as this is the 4th Oxford Dictionary of English that I have purchased on her behalf via Amazon since August 2011.
Mum carefully uses the dictionary daily to assist her in completing, or attempting to complete, the times crossword. The content of the dictionary is, of course, perfect for the task but the hardback covers are sadly not up to the job separating from the spline after an average of only slightly over a year!
This seems a woefully short life for a £26 book.
If it says 'Oxford' on it, it's worth a look. The 'Oxford Dictionary of English' is my well-thumbed resource for the definition and description of just about any word I seek. It's not the most complete dictionary of English, but for everyday desk use it's almost perfect. It's not a replacement for a good thesaurus or style guide. The 9pt serif type on a bright white background is quite legible. The book is 11 x 8.5 x 2.5 inches, and weighs about 5lbs. There are 2,054 pages of actual dictionary, in addition to front and back matter. The binding needs to be stronger, and the slick paper jacket slips and rips with constant one-handed retrieval from the shelf, so you might want to take it off.
The American usage version -- almost a necessity nowadays for writers and editors -- has identical specs.
on 6 January 2004
Whilst the massive Oxford English Dictionary is the king of dictionaries, don't be misled into expecting the Oxford brand to be preeminent at the single-volume level. If you need a dictionary in one volume, your first choice should certainly be Chambers. This is particularly true if you have any interest in Scrabble or crosswords, for both of which Chambers, with its wide range of interesting archaic and dialect words, is the definitive work in the UK.
That said, there is nothing especially wrong with this Oxford offering, but you should think hard about whether its gimmicks, like the usage tips that crop up in little boxes, are valuable enough to earn it a place as your second dictionary. You might be better off saving the money towards serious multi-volume work like the Shorter Oxford Dictionary or, for an American dimension, Webster's Third New International Dictionary.
on 12 April 2012
This is the best (and biggest) dictionary that I have ever owned, with the bonus addition of encyclopaedia entries and reference pages in the middle. It's a steal at this price.
on 13 March 2010
This product was a lot cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else I looked. One of the reasons I was keen to buy it was to have a reference book with which I could check the spelling of words such as focussed, focussing, travelled, travelling, and traveller where the consonants are sometimes doubled and sometimes not. The dictionary was perfect for that purpose. It has all the present participles and past tense spellings of words and is thus a vital tool in the fight against the American spell-checker. It's a very large item and the print is big and easy to read. It has over two thousand pages in it and you might be well advised to check that they are all there. When I purchased the product from another retailer there were thirty five pages missing, and I only discovered this when I was unable to find the word 'occurrence' in it. I only paid 19.99 on Amazon for it though, and I notice it's gone up to 26.49.
on 25 June 2015
The Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE) has about 350,000 entries, which is around half the number claimed to be in the Chambers Dictionary and the Collins English Dictionary. It does though has around the same number of pages as the other two – the ODE aims at quality, not quantity. Its other aim is to provide definitions for the words used in English today, so opt for one of the others (or the Shorter OED or OED proper) if you want a dictionary filled with archaic and obscure words.
Inspired by the 20-volume OED, the ODE makes use of illustrative sentences for the vast majority of its entries, helpfully giving clear examples of how to use them in sentences. Similarly useful (most of the time) are the grey-shaded ‘Usage’ boxes giving tips on words that often cause difficulty or confusion. Also included are a number of ‘Word Trends’ boxes, which pick up on some of the current vogue words undergoing shifts in meaning. Their inclusion is a brilliant idea, but there are so few of them that they seem like an afterthought, and they're written in an informal manner, often attempting to be humorous, that comes across a little patronising and at odds with the dictionary as a whole.
The page layout is excellent. The ODE uses three columns per page instead of two (unlike Chambers and Collins), which suits the brevity of dictionary entries. Different word classes and phrases belonging to the same root words are given headwords each, making it quick and easy to find the definitions you’re looking for. Illustrative sentences are clearly signalled by italic type. Core senses are given a line break and bold numerals to make them easy to find, and subsenses are clearly marked with bold square symbols. Brief etymologies are given for all words. This all adds up to a clearer and less cluttered layout than those found in other publishers’ dictionaries. My only small complaint about the layout is the inclusion of a reference section (prime ministers, the periodic table, metric and imperial weights, etc) in the centre of the dictionary, which disrupts its flow when you’re flicking through. Following feedback from users, Chambers have moved their similar section to the back of their latest dictionary. Hopefully Oxford will do the same in their next edition.
The ODE loses one star from me based on the quality of its physical construction and aesthetics. The paper is thin and scratchy, and you feel like you have to turn the pages very carefully to avoid ripping them. The Collins and Chambers dictionaries have similarly thin paper, but theirs is much smoother and feels much stronger. It’s said you should never judge a book by its cover, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to when a book like the ODE takes up so much space on a shelf. To my eyes the ODE, like all of Oxford’s big reference books, has a rather cold and corporate look. In contrast, the latest comparable Chambers and Collins dictionaries have simple yet distinctive designs that won’t become dated. The dust jacket on the ODE has a cheap glossy texture that creases and tears easily with frequent use. I almost wonder if it’s designed to be thrown straight into the bin. It’s a minor point, but I think most people would agree that a dictionary is the kind of book that should have a slightly special feel to it, especially in an age where there are excellent free online dictionaries available – it needs to feel worth buying in print form. It’s just a shame the extremely high quality of the ODE's content isn’t quite reflected in its construction and dust jacket design.