Tag Archives: Encyclopædia Britannica

How to access the full Oxford English dictionary online from home, for free and entirely legitimately!

15 Nov
Cover of "The Oxford English Dictionary (...

Cover via Amazon

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the granddaddy of all dictionaries.  It’s not only the most comprehensive dictionary in the world, but it provides much more than simple definitions. What the OED does is show word histories – when did a word first enter the language, what did it mean when first used, how has the word’s meaning changed over time and so forth.

If you wanted to own a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, you’d not only need a lot of money, but you’d need plenty of room.  The last full printed version (1989) ran to 20 volumes and 21,730 pages!

But it is possible to access the OED online – although paying for individual access is expensive.

However, there is a way to access the OED for free, from your own computer and it is entirely above board.  All you need is a card for your local library (this is UK only).

If you search on Google, or talk to your librarian, you’ll find that your local library has paid for access to the OED and many other resources – and all you need is the relevant web page on the library’s website and the number of your library card.

Once you click on the resource that you want, you’ll be asked to enter the number of your library card – and hey presto!

I’ve tried this with my local library service (Northamptonshire), which I found by googling ‘Northampton’ and ‘OED access’, and I can confirm that it works perfectly.


Among the other resources are:

and many more.  Give it a go!