SAN FRANCISCO (03/06/2000) - The final word on the English language is coming soon to your browser--if you can afford it. Set for a mid-March launch, the Oxford English Dictionary's new Web site is part of a $55 million revision Project intended to fully update the 116-year-old dictionary for the first time since 1928. OED editors expect to add approximately 1000 new words to the site every three months, along with updated and supplemental definitions of older words.
I found the search tools on a beta version of the site intuitive and easy to use. Like most online dictionaries, it Provides a word's definitions, Pronunciation, and etymology. But the OED adds variant spellings, historical quotations, and a timeline charting when the word was used. You can choose to display or hide these features by clicking buttons in the search results frame.
A separate pane lets you list entries alphabetically or chronologically by date of their first recorded use. Another tool enables you to search for words within definitions or quotations.
While these features set the OED apart from other online dictionaries, so does the price. At $550 per year for individual subscribers, the OED Online might be worthwhile only for academics and other Professionals who do extensive research. But for the average user in search of a definition, free competitors--like Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com) and Lexico (www.dictionary.com)--will do just fine.
Say, what? At $550 a year, the online (and updated) version of the definitive English-language reference work isn't for casual users.
Oxford English Dictionary Online
Pro: Good search tools for the authoritative reference source on the English language.
Con: Expensive, especially since adequate alternatives are free.
Value: Could be worthwhile for academic researchers.
List price: $550 per year for individual subscriberswww.oed.comProduct info no. 646.