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Oxford English Dictionary Exploration


In my exploration of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), I came across words with interesting backgrounds and meanings. However, the ones that most interested me were –able, chagrin, and dictionary. Of the words to the left of chagrin, I chose chaft as I wanted to learn more about it. I chose the suffix –able as it is frequently used in the English Language.

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The suffix –able originated from the Latin language word –abilis. It is a suffix-forming adjective and is a French word. This suffix occurs in numerous adjectives in French formations and is also borrowed in other formats, for example, Latin, e.g., capable, mirable, etc., both of which are adjectives and have been in use since the 12th century. From verbs in the first French conjugation in -er, the suffix was expanded in French to form adjectives from verbs of all other conjugations. Examples are nourissable (nourishable) from verbs in –ir, mouvable (movable) from –oir, défendable (defendable) from –re verbs. The suffix was then broadened to the derivatives of deverbal adjectives in English as exhibited in hybrid word formats with German roots, for example, mistrowable and unspeakable. It was further broadened to form denominal adjectives from the 16th century to the early 18th century. Examples include saleable and carriageable (Oxford University Press).

The second word selected was chagrin (noun), which means a type of leather or skin with a coarse surface, commonly referred to as shagreen. This word originated from the French language. It means a coarse and granular skin used to polish or file a surface. This usage of the word has been widespread since the 17th century and has been undergoing changes in meaning. It was used in 1678 to refer to the rough skin of a fish, in 1766 to mean a black skin full of small scales, and in 1842 to mean a tuberculated skin of the wild ass that the Levantines make the grained leather. A second meaning of the word is a shagreen (chagrin)-like surface, and this came into existence around 1734. A third meaning, that which troubles the mind, came into usage in the mid 17th century, precisely in 1656 when it was used to mean a heaviness or anxiety of the mind. This meaning has been in use to date. A final meaning of the word is a severe annoyance due to a disappointment, and this came into usage in 1716 and was used in Lady M. W. Montagues Letters published from 1716 to 1718. The word was again used in Plutarch in 1770, and the meaning is still in use. What surprised me about the word was that it can be used as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

The third word I explored was dictionary; a book that gives information about the words of a language, this includes the orthography, pronunciation, use, synonyms, antonyms, history, and other aspects or some of these. Joannes de Garlandia, an English native, used the word Dictionarius in 1225 to refer to a collection of Latin vocables organized according to their subjects, for students’ use. In the early 14th century, Berchorius wrote a Dictionarium morale utriusque Testamenti, made up of moralizations on the major Vulgate words for use in theology studies. In 1538, Sir Thomas Elyot printed his Latin-English ‘dictionary’, and in 1556, John Withals published ‘A shorte dictionarie for yonge beginners’ in English and Latin. Withals arranged his book according to the subject headlines. In the 17th century, the word was slowly expanded to books explaining English words. Only ‘hard words’ were explained in the early English Dictionaries. This has changed, and modern dictionaries incorporate all English words.

The word dictionary has been in use since the early 15th century; W. de W. used it in 1526 to refer to Bercherius’ work; N. Bailey published a book entitled An Universal Etymological English Dictionary in 1721, and in the 19th century, R. W. Dale used the word in Lect. Preach. vi. 181 to explain that ‘A dictionary is not merely a home for living words; it is a hospital for the sick; it is a cemetery for the dead.’ The word may also be broadened to mean a book of information on any branch of knowledge in which the items are organized in alphabetical order, for example, a Dictionary of Architecture, Medicine, History, etc. The most interesting feature about this word is its rich history and the semantic processes it has undergone through the centuries.

The final word is chaft and is in the column to the left of the word chagrin, and it originated from schaft and chaff, German and Dutch words, respectively. It means making a chewing movement with the upper jaw. However, the word refers to the upper jaw, a meaning that has been in use since the early 15th century. Besides, chaft also means a comb, for example, chaft-blade, or chaft-bone. This meaning has been used since the early 14th century in books such as Chirurg. (1634) by Lowe, Atkinson used the word Chaff-bone to refer to the jaw-bone in 1634 (Oxford University Press)

Works cited

Oxford University Press. Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2009. Subscriber: University of Houston-Victoria Library.

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1. StudyCorgi. "Oxford English Dictionary Exploration." December 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Oxford English Dictionary Exploration." December 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Oxford English Dictionary Exploration." December 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Oxford English Dictionary Exploration'. 1 December.

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