How to Read a Word

ISBN : 9780199574896

Elizabeth Knowles
208 ページ
136 x 200 mm

Have you ever wondered how you can find out more about a word: Where did it come from? How has its meaning altered? How can it be pronounced? What is its relationship to other words? Language is not fixed, but is an evolutionary process: words develop and change, in meaning, association, and pronunciation, as well as in many other ways. Exploring the routes taken by the words we choose to investigate leads us on fascinating journeys. How to Read a Word, written by the noted lexicographer Elizabeth Knowles, shows us how we might delve into the origins, associations, and evolution of words, and is primarily concerned with the following two points: what questions can be asked about a word? And how can they be answered? Utilising the unrivalled resources and the language-monitoring programs of the Oxford English Dictionary, the book leads you through the various stages of investigation into the myriad aspects of individual words, from etymology to date of first use and regional distribution, and from spelling and pronunciation to shifts in meaning. Supported by many examples of investigation into specific words, and featuring a full index, a wide selection of useful online resources, and reams of useful tips for avoiding common pitfalls, it is both a thought-provoking and practical handbook, providing readers with the essential tools to confidently interrogate the words by which they are surrounded. How to Read a Word is the perfect gift for anyone who is fascinated by the development and intricacies of the English language.


1. But is it in the dictionary?
2. Unlocking the wordhoard
3. The art of interrogation: what questions to ask
4. The art of exploration (i): where to look for answers
5. The art of exploration (ii): how to look for answers
6. Interpreting the evidence: understanding what we have found
7. Over to you: building up your own word files as a word explorer
8. Afterword - 'Oranges are not the only fruit': an examination of satsuma and related terms to illustrate the range of possibilities for exploration
Pathways of English
Overview of Dictionary History
Where to Look: a selection of online resources
Key tips for online research
Subject index
Word index


Elizabeth Knowles became a historical lexicographer through working as a library researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement, and then as a Senior Editor for the 4th edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993). She has been Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (7th edition, 2009), and her editorial credits include What They Didn't Say: A Book of Misquotations (2006), and the Little Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (2009).