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Seven of the twenty volumes of the printed version of the second edition of the OED

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The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), published by the Oxford University Press, is a descriptive (as opposed to prescriptive) dictionary<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> of the English language. As well as describing English usage in its many variations throughout the world, it traces the historical development of the language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers.<ref>"As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from those of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings." [1]</ref><ref>"The OED is a historical dictionary, with a structure that is very different from that of a dictionary of current English."[2]</ref> The second edition, published in 1989, came to 21,728 pages in 20 volumes.

Although work had begun on the dictionary in 1857, it was not until 1884 that it began to be published, in unbound fascicles as work continued on the project, under the name of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society. In 1895 the title The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was first used unofficially on the covers of the series, and in 1928 the full dictionary was republished in ten bound volumes. In 1933 the title The Oxford English Dictionary fully replaced the former name in all occurrences in its reprinting as twelve volumes with a one-volume supplement. More supplements came over the years until 1989, when the second edition was published. Since 2000, a third edition of the dictionary has been underway, approximately a third of which is now complete.

The first electronic version of the dictionary was made available in 1988. The online version has been available since 2000, and as of April 2014 was receiving over two million hits per month. The third edition of the dictionary will probably only appear in electronic form; the chief executive of Oxford University Press, Nigel Portwood, feels it unlikely that it will ever be printed.<ref name=":0">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref><ref name=":7">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref>


Oxford English Dictionary sections
Intro  Historical nature  Entries and relative size  History  Formats  Relationship to other Oxford dictionaries  Spelling  Reception  See also  Notes  Further reading  External links  

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