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The Oxford Guide to Etymology
The Oxford Guide to Etymology
  • The best available introduction to the subject
  • First comprehensive account in English
  • Written by the leading expert in the field
  • Illustrated with numerous examples
  • Covers the histories of place and family names
  • Shows the interactions between linguistic and social change

This practical introduction to word history investigates every aspect of where words come from and how they change. Philip Durkin, chief etymologist of the Oxford English Dictionary, shows how different types of evidence can shed light on the myriad ways in which words change in form and meaning. He considers how such changes can be part of wider linguistic processes, or be influenced by a complex mixture of social and cultural factors. He illustrates every point with a wide range of fascinating examples. 

Dr Durkin investigates folk etymology and other changes which words undergo in everyday use. He shows how language families are established, how words in different languages can have a common ancester, and the ways in which the latter can be distinguished from words introduced through language contact. He examines the etymologies of the names of people and places. His focus is on English but he draws many examples from languages such as French, German, and Latin which cast light on the pre-histories of English words.

The Oxford Guide to Etymology is reliable, readable, instructive, and enjoyable. Everyone interested in the history of words will value this account of an endlessly fascinating subject.

"This is an immaculate work in every sense, proudly flying the banners of authority and of hegemony ... a galazy of fascinating examples ... a brilliant, addictive work indispensable for school and academic libraries at all levels, and for all with any interest in words and the enchanted patterns they weave." - H. G. A. Hughes, Reference Reviews

"a very readable, informative, content-packed introduction for the beginner; for the initiated it provides an incentive to ponder the many open questions presented. As such it can be unreservedly recommended." - Elmar Seebold, Anglia

"Our strong expectations of The Oxford Guide to Etymology are fully realized" - Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse Taalkunde

"A valuable and readable book. It offers a lucid, careful discussion of the main principles of etymology, and illustrates them with copious examples. It also nicely contextualizes etymology within the field of historical linguistics as a whole.... Deserves a place on every etymologist's shelves." - LinguistList

"I am very impressed by the thoroughness of its coverage and the scholarly yet accessible style in which it is written. There is a real need for a book of this kind, which will appeal to the interested and informed general public as well as students and scholars." - Joan Beal, Professor of English University of Sheffield

"Not only is this book truly excellent, it is unique in at least two ways. First, because it is the only dedicated textbook on the market as far as I know entirely devoted to etymology; and second because it is by an etymologist working on the OED, the best and fullest etymological dictionary of any language currently available." - Roger Lass, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, University of Cape Town

"Very much to be welcomed" - Paul T. Roberge, English Language and Linguistics


About this book
1: Introduction
2: What is a Word? Which Words Need Etymological Research?
3: Are Words Coherent Entities?
4: Word Formation
5: Lexical Borrowing
6: The Mechanisms of Borrowing
7: Change in Word Form
8: Semantic Change
9: The Etymology of Names
10: Conclusion
Suggested Further Reading
Index of Words
General Index

About the author: 

Philip Durkin is Principal Etymologist of the Oxford English Dictionary. He trained as a medievalist and historian of the English language at the University of Oxford, where he completed a doctorate on previously unedited Middle English prose texts. He is a well-known speaker on English etymology. His publications include articles in scholarly journals, such as Transactions of the Philological Society, Dictionaries, and Critical Quarterly. He is Honorary Treasurer of the Philological Society, the oldest learned society in Great Britain for the study of language and languages

Product details

ISBN : 9780199691616

Philip Durkin
360 Pages
175 x 241 mm
Pub date
Jul 2011
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The Oxford Guide to Etymology

The Oxford Guide to Etymology

The Oxford Guide to Etymology