London: The Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) online version was relaunched on Tuesday a decade after it first appeared on the internet.
The new version contains 600,000 words, three million quotations and covers more than 1,000 years of the English language, organisers said.
As well as providing words’ meanings, the online dictionary allows readers to trace the evolution of the language with the help of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, which is fully integrated into OED Online.
A search for “recession”, for example, will show that it first appeared in 1606 when it was used to describe “a temporary suspension of work or activity”.
In 1614 there are references to it meaning “a desertion of party principles”, and more than 200 years later a second definition, “the action of ceding back; a territory that has been ceded back” appeared.
But it was not until 1903 that a newspaper referred to a recession in an economic context.
OED Online also reveals that if Prince William had proposed to Kate Middleton three hundred years ago, he might have asked her to “join giblets” with him, or suggested that they “buckle”, a word used by poet John Dryden in 1693 meaning to unite oneself in wedlock.
Writers who influenced the English language are listed, including George Orwell who was responsible not only for the famous phrases “doublethink” and “Newspeak” but also for “bureaucratize” and “soft centre”.
Among Evelyn Waugh’s contributions is “poping”, meaning conversion to Roman Catholicism.
“Through intensive research in both past and present-day usage we are rewriting the story of our constantly changing language,” said John Simpson, chief editor of the OED.
“Now the interweaving of the Historical Thesaurus of the OED and other linking features ... ensure that readers can take a journey through the language.”
Users in Britain can access the new online edition (www.oed.com) free via their public libraries, while institutions and individuals must pay to subscribe.