When the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, appeared years ago, the public response was extraordinary. The AP and UPI announced publication over their newswires. Time and Newsweek ran full-page articles. The New Yorker published an extensive essay. Virtually every major paper in American and in Great Britain covered the event. And from every corner, the praise was lavish. Time called it "a scholarly Everest." Newsweek, "a celebration of language." And Herbert Mitgang, in The New York Times, called the new OED "the last word on words" and "the arbiter of the English language as it is read and spoken all over the world."
Now comes the Compact Edition of OED II, which captures all the wealth of scholarship found in the original edition in just one volume. The Compact is not an abridgement, but a direct photoreduction of the entire 20-volume set, with nine pages of the original on every nine-by-twelve page of the Compact (a magnifying glass comes with it). As in the Second Edition, the Compact combines in one alphabetical sequence the sixteen volumes of the first OED and the four Supplements--plus an extra five thousand new words to bring this monumental dictionary completely up to date. And it is monumental, with definitions of 500,000 words, 290,000 main entries, 137,000 pronunciations, 249,300 etymologies, 577,000 cross-references, and over 2,412,000 illustrative quotations. But as large as it is, perhaps its most important feature is its historical focus. The OED records not only words and meanings currently in use but also those that have long been considered obsolete. Moreover, under each definition of a word is a chronologically arranged group of quotations that illustrate the word's usage down through the years, beginning with its earliest known appearance. The result is a dictionary that offers unique insight into the way our language has, over the centuries, grown, changed, and been put to use.
More than 100 years in the making, The Oxford English Dictionary is now universally acknowledged as the world's greatest dictionary--the supreme arbiter on the usage and meaning of English words, a fascinating guide to the history and evolution of the language, and one of the greatest works of scholarship ever produced. The Washington Post has written that "no one who reads or writes seriously can be without the OED." Now with the Compact, the world's greatest dictionary is within the reach of anyone who wants one.