A graduate of the University of St Andrews, he was the third editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and co-editor (with C. T. Onions) of the 1933 supplement. From 1916 to 1925 he was also Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the University of Oxford. He married Jessie Kinmond Hutchen of Dundee, born 1864 or 65, died 1947, daughter of William.
He lectured on lexicography at the University of Chicago while working on the Dictionary of American English and the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, a project he pioneered. Many twentieth-century American lexicographers studied under Craigie as a part of his lectureship, including Clarence Barnhart, Jess Stein, Woodford A. Heflin, Robert Ramsey, Louise Pound, and Allen Walker Read.
Craigie was also fluent in Icelandic and an expert in the field of rímur (rhyming epic poems). He made many valuable contributions in that field. His interest was awakened by a winter of study in Copenhagen, then the centre of Norse philology. He compiled the complete Oxford edition of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, with previously untranslated tales being supplied by his wife. He befriended many of the great Norse philologists of the time and came across séra Einar Guðmundsson's seventeenth-century Skotlands rímur, dealing with the Gowrie Conspiracy. Being a Scotsman himself, there was no way back, and he continued research in that field till the end of his life.
- Aitken, A. J. (2004). "Craigie, Sir William Alexander (1867–1957)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 16 Oct 2011.
- Andersen, Hans Christian; Craigie, William Alexander; Craigie, Jessie Kinmond (1914). Fairy Tales and Other Stories. London; Toronto: Oxford University Press. Wikisource.
- W. A. Craigie, ‘Skotlands rímur: Icelandic Ballads on the Gowrie Conspiracy’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 29 (1894–95), 286–92, http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/PSAS_2002/pdf/vol_029/29_286_292.pdf (http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/ARCHway.html); Skotlands rímur: Icelandic Ballads on the Gowrie Conspiracy, ed. by W. A. Craigie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908), https://archive.org/details/skotlandsrmuric00craigoog.
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