In this video, you’ll learn how the Oxford English Dictionary differs from most dictionaries, and how to use the OED to find a definition. Most dictionaries tell us what words mean today. But what if you want to see what a word meant in 1850, or 1550? If you’d like to see how a word’s meaning has changed over time, or to get a sense of where a word comes from, you may wish to take a look at the Oxford English Dictionary, or OED for short. We find a link to the Oxford English Dictionary here on the Literatures and Languages Library’s main page. If we click this link, it will take us to an intermediary page. You can click on the additional link to arrive at the OED. The OED provides us with a quick search box. We can enter our search term here, and quickly find the word we’d like to find. Let’s try the word terrific: t-e-r-r-i-f-i-c. Clicking return, we find our main entry. The term “terrific” is listed here as an adjective and noun. We can view this as an outline or as a full entry. The Oxford English Dictionary gives us a number of resources we might want to take a look at understand this word. It provides us with pronunciation; we can listen to the word and British or American English. It also provides us with a graphic indicating the word’s frequency in current English usage. It provides us with information about the entomology of a word, that is, its origin: we can see that came from French and Latin. And it provides us with, not only a definition of this word, but also examples of how the word has been used over time. These examples are arranged chronologically, so rather than seeing the most common usage of the word first, we see the original early uses of the word first, and we can see that the word terrific is initially used in the English language around 1667, and it’s used as an adjective meaning “causing terror” or “terrifying.” It’s used this way for quite some time. We also see a definition evolving around 1743, in which the word means “of great size” or intensity. Then we see the modern usage of the word, used as an enthusiastic term of commendation “amazing, impressive, excellent.” This is a later usage of the term, it evolves around 1871 and we can see it being used commonly right up through today. So, the Oxford English Dictionary is a key tool for the study of English language and literature, and you may wish to use it if you’re interested in how words have changed in meaning over time.