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Guide to the OED: Home

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This guide is to help  students learn about the Oxford English Dictionary. Here you will find:

1. Searching OED: a basic guide in how to conduct searches in the Oxford English Dictionary Online.

2. Reading OED Entry: once you've found the entry you're looking for, how to interpret what you're seeing.

3. Tips on Advanced Searching: constructing more complex queries and searching within entries.



Citing OED

  • o export a citation for an OED Online entry, click the "Cite" link at the top of the entry to export it to several different citation management tools (including RefWorks) in MLA or Chicago format:

Accessing the OED

To access the OED you will need to authenticate through the UIUC's Duo Factor Authentication system. The preferred browser is Chrome. However, if you have trouble accessing the resource, try a different browser or let us know at

Contents of OED

  • The OED does not include proper names unless they are widely used in a particular context (for instance, "Chamberlainism," "Shakespearian").
  • Letters of the alphabet each have their own OED entry, discussing the history of each letter in typography and usage.
  • Initialisms are sequences of letters that refer to a full expression ("USA" = United States of America).
  • Acronyms are initialisms that are now words: for instance, NASA is now a word itself, and is no longer only short for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (You can view a list of acronyms in the OED here.)
  • Abbreviations are shortened words ("Rev.", "p.s.").
  • Affixes involve adding something to make an entirely new word: "pro-," "re-" and so on. These will usually have their own entry.
  • Ghost words are words that were originally misspelled or misprinted, made their way into the English language, and now are considered spurious. (The OED currently lists about 400 words which originated "in error," some of which are ghost words.)


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