The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the guide to the meaning, history, pronunciation, and variant spellings of words -- present and past -- from across the English-speaking world.
The OED gives useful information about the history of each word: where it came from, who first used it in each sense, which important writers have used it in which senses, when senses have become obsolete, and so on. The OED is an invaluable research tool for English scholars, and you should get into the habit of using it every time you close read. Using the OED can help you unlock deeper meaning in the literary texts you study.
1. Access The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (you can find it by searching the database name in Library Search).
2. Enter your search word in the search box and select "Go."
3. Review your quick search results, noting the various versions and parts of speech (e.g. noun, adjective, verb, etc.) of the word. Select the version of the word you need.
4. Review the dictionary entry. Included with the definition will be listings of when and where the word was used historically, usually beginning with the earliest recorded use.
Keep in mind that each entry usually contains more than one definition, so be sure to scroll down to see them all. Print, Save, Email, or Cite the entries and definitions you find.
TIP: The names of the works in which the word appeared are linked to additional information. Select the links to view complete title and edition information, plus available biographical information about the author.