Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

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Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
Leather bound SOED Sixth Edition
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Release number
Genre Dictionary
Published 21 September 2007
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 3472
ISBN 978-0199233243
Preceded by Fifth Edition

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (SOED) is an English language dictionary published by the Oxford University Press. The SOED is a two-volume abridgement of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

Print Editions[edit]


The first editor, William Little, worked on the book from 1902 until his death in 1922. The dictionary was completed by H. W. Fowler, Jessie Coulson, and C. T. Onions. An abridgement of the complete work was contemplated from 1879, when the Oxford University Press took over from the Philological Society on what was then known as A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. However, no action was taken until 1902, when the work was begun by William Little, a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He laboured until his death in 1922, at which point he had completed "A" to "T" and "V". The remaining letters were completed by Henry Watson Fowler ("U", "X", "Y", and "Z") and Mrs. E. A. Coulson ("W") under the direction of Charles Talbut Onions, who succeeded Little as editor. Onions wrote that SOED was "to present in miniature all the features of the principal work" and to be "a quintessence of those vast materials" in the complete OED.

First Edition[edit]

The first edition was published in February 1933. It was reprinted in March and April of that year and again in 1934.

Second Edition[edit]

A Second Edition appeared in 1936 contained about 3,000 revisions and additions and was reprinted in 1939.

Third Edition[edit]

A Third Edition was published in the United States under the name The Oxford Universal Dictionary in 1944 with reprints in 1947, 1950, 1952 and 1955. The 1955 reprint contained an addendum of new entries. The 1973 reprint, which contained an enlarged addenda with over seventy pages and a major revision of all the etymologies.

Fourth Edition[edit]

The New SOED was prepared under the editorship of Lesley Brown 1980-1993 and was the first complete revision of the dictionary and should be considered a re-abridgement of the SOED and its supplements. The whole text was completely revised for the Fourth Edition, which was published in 1993 as the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. The book attempted to include all English words which had substantial currency after 1700, plus the vocabulary of Shakespeare, John Milton, Edmund Spenser and the King James Version.[1] As a historical dictionary, it includes obsolete words if they are used by major authors and earlier meanings where they explain the development of a word. Headwords are traced back to their earliest usage.

Fifth Edition[edit]

The Fifth Edition was published in 2002,[2] and contains more than half a million definitions, with 83,500 illustrative quotations from 7,000 authors. The name Shorter Oxford English Dictionary was used to emphasise the link between this two-volume dictionary and the original twenty-volume OED.

Sixth Edition[edit]

On 21 September 2007, 16,000 words lost their hyphens in a Sixth Edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.[2] Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, stated the reason: "People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they're not really sure what they are for." Its researchers reviewed 2 billion words (in newspapers, books, web sites and blogs from 2000). Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly, etc.[3][4]

Seventh Edition[edit]

Oxford has not announced that they have commenced work on an SOED seventh edition.

Electronic versions[edit]

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is available on CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh.[5] Version 3.0 of that CD-ROM is copy-protected using SecuROM.

The dictionary is also available as an electronic download plug-in for WordWeb for Windows[6] and for Mac OS X.[7]

In addition to all of the contents of the traditional paper dictionary, the electronic versions include:

  • Audio pronunciations
  • Automatic look-up of words from other applications
  • Search functions
  • Crossword solver and anagram functions


  1. ^ Oxford University Press, The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 1993, Preface
  2. ^ a b Oxford University Press, The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Sixth Edition, 2007, Preface to the sixth edition
  3. ^ "MSNBC, Hyphens perish as English marches on". Archived from the original on 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  4. ^ Reuters, Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on (Retrieved 18 May 2008)
  5. ^ Oxford University Press, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 6th Edition on CD-ROM
  6. ^ WordWeb Software, Windows version Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
  7. ^ WordWeb Software, Macintosh version Shorter Oxford English Dictionary