online dictionary

Online Etymology Dictionary

The Online Etymology Dictionary is a dictionary that describes the origins of English language words.


Douglas Harper originally created the online dictionary as a website where he could share some information on books and writers. Since then it has evolved into the etymology dictionary. Harper says that it has become a site for people "...who are curious about what sort of no-life obsessive-compulsive would do something like that. The dictionary uses the "history and evolution of more than 30,000 words, including slang and technical terms. It is described on its home page as:
... a map of the wheel-ruts of modern English. Etymologies are not definitions; they're explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago.

The dates beside a word indicate the earliest year for which there is a surviving written record of that word (in English, unless otherwise indicated). This should be taken as approximate, especially before about 1700, since a word may have been used in conversation for hundreds of years before it turns up in a manuscript that has had the good fortune to survive the centuries.

Reviews and reputation

The Online Etymology Dictionary has been referenced by the University of Ohio's Library as an etymological resource and cited in the Chicago Tribune as one of the “best resources for finding just the right word.” It is used by many etymologists and is cited in numerous articles as a reliable source for explaining the history and evolution of words.“...This site is all about a love of language, and will teach you how it all began for each word.”


  • The acronym, OED, coincides with the frequently used acronym for the Oxford English Dictionary, a coincidence unlikely to be lost on etymologists.


External links

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