The OED in Two Minutes.

The OED has created an amazing feature:

Each data point shown here represents the first recorded use of a word in English, positioned according to the language from which the word was borrowed. The size of the data point indicates the frequency of the word: larger bubbles for higher-frequency words, smaller bubbles for lower-frequency words. The progress bar at the bottom tracks the growth of English, subdivided into the major language groups from which words are derived.

There’s plenty more information at the link; here‘s the interactive map itself if you just want to get started. Warning: intensely addictive, and each word shown below each map is linked to the OED entry (they seem to have made them all accessible for this purpose); if I didn’t have to get work done I’d pause it at each new year and investigate every word. (If you click the double arrow it zooms forward so you see the whole thing in two minutes, but I prefer the slower, single-arrow route.)


  1. Boy is that cool.

    Now, if they would just cut the price of the OED such that ordinary folks could afford a subscription. I get there through my library, but would prefer to access directly and more easily. An iPad app would be even better. They need some leximarketers on staff.

  2. Lucy Kemnitzer says

    If they were accessible, they sadly aren’t now, at least without a paid subscription.

  3. There are of course some spurious linkages, for example, a relatively common word is labelled as first appearing as an Australian Aboriginal word in the 1850’s (1854 I think I spotted it): namely “euro”. I rather doubt that this is the source of the current usage found by Ngrams.

    But yes, this is very cool.

  4. The OED doesn’t cite Euro as an Australian Aboriginal word. Euro- comb. form, as for example Euro-African, which is a Putnam’s Monthly Magazine (1853–1857) citation from 1854, may be what you mean.

  5. euro, Austr. (ˈjʊərəʊ). Also uroo, yuro.

    [Native name (also uroo, waroo).]

    A species of kangaroo. Also attrib.

    Cites from 1860s on.

  6. John Emerson says

    Scandinavian words kept appearing long after 1066 and Stamford Bridge — I’m at 1500 now. Was this continued contact, or late written appearance of a spoken word.

  7. JE: The three words of North Germanic origin at 1500 are span, wheeze, screak ‘screech’. The first is not the ordinary word span, but an etymologically distinct North Scottish and Orkney term meaning ‘measure of butter’. This is surely a direct borrowing from Norn, the former North Germanic language of Orkney and Shetland. Wheeze probably failed to be recorded in writing by mere chance, and screak has never been as popular as its close relatives shriek and screech, all three echoic and sound-symbolic.

  8. “euro, Austr. (ˈjʊərəʊ). Also uroo, yuro.”

    Clear evidence that the aboriginal tribes of Australia entered into a currency union arguably contributing to the demise of economic dominance of the continent.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Meh, keeping the separate currencies – and the fake-separate ones like the Austrian Schilling which was pegged to the D-Mark – would have been worse. What’s making trouble is Merkel’s insistence on austerity as a self-evident moral necessity; that’s a glorious victory of common sense over science.

  10. Not so much common sense as primitive moralism.

  11. Trond Engen says

    Yeah, common prejudice more than common sense.

  12. AJP Je suis Jesus says

    Probably depends on which side o’ the Alps you live on.

    Mutter, mutter…

  13. Mutter, mutter…

    Talking to Mutti Angela there?

  14. AJP Je suis Arthur says

    We’re not really playing on the same team, but she is kinda cute and cuddly (not like z.B. Mrs Thatcher).

Speak Your Mind