From an article in the Telegraph:


A team of 80 lexicographers has been working on the third edition of the OED – known as OED3 – for the past 21 years.

The dictionary’s owner, Oxford University Press (OUP), said the impact of the internet means OED3 will probably appear only in electronic form.

The most recent OED has existed online for more than a decade, where it receives two million hits a month from subscribers who pay an annual fee of £240.

“The print dictionary market is just disappearing, it is falling away by tens of per cent a year,” Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of OUP, told the Sunday Times. Asked if he thought the third edition would be printed, he said: “I don’t think so.”

Almost one third of a million entries were contained in the second version of the OED, published in 1989 across 20 volumes.

The next full edition is still estimated to be more than a decade away from completion; only 28 per cent has been finished to date

Checking with Amazon, the current 20 volume OED set, with CD ROM, is selling for $1,290.

Thanks to Frank Sleightholme for the link.


  1. Online resources have many shortcomings compared to print editions. For instance, type in ‘hats’ in the OED’s search box and it tells you there’s no such word; type in ‘cats’ and you’re taken directly to the ‘catmint’ page (because cats-mint is an alternative spelling). More reasons why I won’t be throwing away my collection of traditional dictionaries here:

  2. Regrettable. While digital and online dictionaries are convenient, and very inexpensive to produce, it is predicted that none of the hardware to read them will be available in 50, 100, 500, years. Ink on paper will be in very good shape in 50, worn but usable in 100, perhaps still readable or restorable in 500 years.

    One would hope that a limited edition of the third OED would be printed for libraries around the world to use as a reference. CDs and DVDs are too easily damaged and made unreadable in public use.

  3. As an aside. There is a very interesting January 12th Podcast in the NYT Tech Talk series at:

    The Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary discusses the new features available on the redesigned online version of the OED. The database cross-referencing becoming available is absolutely awesome .. and he says that no decision has been made about the next edition being printed or not. He says it won’t be finished for more than a decade.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail