• The Dictionary People
  • The Dictionary People
  • The Dictionary People
  • The Dictionary People
  • The Dictionary People
  • The Dictionary People
  • The Dictionary People
  • The Dictionary People

The Dictionary People: The unsung heroes who created the Oxford English Dictionary

Linguistics & Language Studies
Hardback Published on: 07/09/2023
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Bookseller Reviews

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The Dictionary People
This is a book for people who love history, words and people.
The work that went into creating the Oxford English Dictionary was immense, far reaching and the product of many minds. The type of people who ‘read for ... READ MORE
Eilish from Rustington
The Dictionary People
An etymological, anthropological delight!
This book is for all the logophiles out there. It is expertly researched, wonderfully presented and full of such wit, wisdom and humanity. I loved this boo... READ MORE
Liv Hunter


What do three murderers, Karl Marx's daughter and a vegetarian vicar have in common? They all helped create the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary has long been associated with elite institutions and Victorian men; its longest-serving editor, James Murray, devoted 36 years to the project, as far as the letter T. But the Dictionary didn't just belong to the experts; it relied on contributions from members of the public. By the time it was finished in 1928 its 414,825 entries had been crowdsourced from a surprising and diverse group of people, from archaeologists and astronomers to murderers, naturists, novelists, pornographers, queer couples, suffragists, vicars and vegetarians.

Lexicographer Sarah Ogilvie dives deep into previously untapped archives to tell a people's history of the OED. She traces the lives of thousands of contributors who defined the English language, from the eccentric autodidacts to the family groups who made word-collection their passion. With generosity and brio, Ogilvie reveals, for the first time, the full story of the making of one of the most famous books in the world - and celebrates to sparkling effect the extraordinary efforts of the Dictionary People.

  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • ISBN: 9781784744939
  • Number of pages: 384
  • Weight: 611g
  • Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 35 mm

Customer Reviews

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The Dictionary People
An A-Z of OED Contributors, including the C for Cannibal and M for Murderer...
When Sarah Ogilvie was saying goodbye to her job and colleagues at the Oxford University Press, she wandered into the basement where the Oxford English Dic... READ MORE
Colin Edwards
The Dictionary People
Captivating and detaiked
The Dictionary People is an absolute delight. I was intrigued from start to finish and have learned so much from a book packed with detail. Sarah Ogilvie... READ MORE
Anita Wallas
The Dictionary People
Lexicographical nerdiness
The Dictionary People is an A to Z exploration of the people who contributed to the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary in the late 19th century and ... READ MORE
Verity Halliday
The Dictionary People
such an interesting and well written book
Goodness, this is a real labour of love! the author tells us she spent 8 years researching the topic, and her delight in her findings really shines out. Ho... READ MORE
The Dictionary People
The Oxford English Dictionary and how it came about
When you search for the meaning of an unusual word in a dictionary (or more often on your phone nowadays), you never stop to think about how the definition... READ MORE
Jenny Hill
The Dictionary People
A wonderful book about some of the original contributors to the OED. Read it!!
I have read several books over the years about the compilation of the OED - nonfiction as well as fiction. I wondered how this book by Sarah Ogilvie would ... READ MORE
Sharyn Farnaby
The Dictionary People
Good pre
This book has a lovely premise – the stories (in alphabetical order, of course) of a number of contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary – the writers ... READ MORE
Lucy Williams
The Dictionary People
This is my perfect type of book, all about words, peppered with lots of information and all presented in an alphabetical list! I’ve been interested in etym... READ MORE
Fern Adams