Questions about the OED

Instead of buying the entire 20-volume set of he Oxford English Dictionary 2nd edition, which can cost over $800, I can get the OED 2nd editon on CD-Rom. It contains all 500,000 entries-but does it contain all the exact information? What about the 2 volume set?

I don’t know this for a fact, but I believe the CD is complete. So, for that matter, is the 2-volume set (this I know for certain) – but how they produced the 2-volume set was to reprint the entries in very fine print – so much so that a magnifying glass is supplied with the set. (I presume we are talking the same thing here – I cannot imagine an “abridged OED” but I suppose one is possible.)

There is a two-volume complete OED? You guys sure you’re not confusing it with the Shorter OED, which traditionally came out in two large volumes (though I have it in one huge one)? It’s definitely abridged, as although I don’t have it in front of me, from memory it says it “treats most of the content of the original work”. It’s definitely readable without a magnifying glass, though the text is small and the paper very thin. The even smaller Concise OED is probably their best seller, and they go righ down to pocket and school versions.

Check out two things first.

Your local library. It’s possible you have free access to the online version, which is state of the art.

If you are in any way affiliated with a local Univ. you may have online access.

There is also a Compact OED, which I have. It’s not the most recent edition (Second, not Third), but it’s complete in one volume – it has nine pages of the OED printed on each very thin page, and it does indeed come with a magnifier so strong it’s hemispherical.

You can get the full dictionary in two volumes. I bought it for my Dad a few years ago. The text is very small.

The online version is wonderful.

No, Poly is right. The OED was printed in a two volume version - two very large volumes, which come in a single slipcase which also contains a little drawer with a magnifying glass. I doubt very much if this is still produced, now that the much handier alternative of a CD-ROM is available.

The SOED also comes in two volumes, but it’s a different work with a good deal less in it. It may “treat of” most of the content of the OED, but it certainly doesn’t reproduce it.

The online version is terrific. I had no idea it was a pay site - I use it all the time, but it’s always free. I guess all the connections I had to it (university, work) are paid for. And I’ve been citing it here often! Damn!

The two-volume Compact Edition is the best one for your average consumer, who probably doesn’t have the space for the full 20 volumes – I seem to recall it being slightly less expensive than the CD version. All three of these versions contain the same text.

I got my copy – an early 70’s reprint of the first edition, plus supplements – for about $90 from Also, if you are student or faculty at a large enough school, you probably have access to the OED website, assuming the school keeps a subscription. If not, it’s possible (but expensive) to buy a subscription. This gives you access to not only the first and second editions but the third edition that is still in progress.

I have the Compact Edition here. I got it either free or fairly cheap about 20 years ago as an incentive to join the Book of the Month Club. It reprints four miniature pages of the original edition onto one page of the Compact Edition. I used to be able to read the fine print; now I find myself using the magnifying glass it came with (in its own little drawer above the volumes in the slipcase).

I joined Book-of-the-Month Club back in the 80s just to get the compact OED. The Chicago Public Library used to subscribe to the online OED, but they dropped it a couple of years ago due to budget problems. I really miss it. My local branch also has the compact edition.

Do you know the URL to the online version?

Same question I asked hawthorne:
Do you knwo the URL to the online version?

Please excuse that typo.

Does the 2-volume set with magnifying glass ant the OEd 2nd edtion on cd-rom contain all 500,000 entrie, and information as what context the words are used (allus., fig., trans., poetic, attrib., etc.) and quotes?
If they’re the same as the 20-volume set, which one’s cheaper?

The CD version of the OED contains everything in the printed version. The price is comparable but a CD, manual,. setup floppy and case doesn’t load up you shelf space and is much faster to search, select, choose, etc.

Dont leave for college without one. You will find it is a bargain compared to the price of college text books these days.

According to my bookmarks, the URL is

You can’t access it without a password. But try the web page of your local library. Mine has a link to it. You just have to enter your library card number.

I have the compact version of the OED from the Book of the Month Club. It is impossible for anyone to read without the magnifying glass (and sometimes hard with it), but it does contain the entire dictionary. I tend to use the online version because it’s easier.

The two-volume Compact Edition is a complete, photographic reprint of the entire original set of 20 volumes. Not a word is omitted. The pages are just shrunk so that four of the original fit onto one page of the compact edition. The Compact Edition also includes the 1933 supplement in its entirety.

Although the Compact Edition is now out of print, I see that you can buy used copies from on-line vendors for under $100.

Not if you’re very short-sighted it’s not … I can happily read it without the magnifying glass. :smiley:

The OED isn’t revised very often (if you want to be a pedant and piss off your friends, amongst scholars of English, the real OED is the Old English Dictionary, the MED is the Middle English Dictionary, and what we using call the OED, is called the New English Dictionary, the NED), what they do instead is produce an appendix of new words every year or so.

My copy of the compact edition is about ten or fifteen years old, so won’t contain any appendices more recent than that, but it contains the full text of the 20 volume set up until then. If you’re interested in “new” words, then you’re better off with a more recent set, or an online subscription.