The Oxford Dictionary Of Idioms


Oxford has published a second edition of a title that first appeared as a paperback in 1999. Promotional material declares that there are more than 5,000 definitions of idioms with 350 new idioms and “hundreds of new origin notes.” The dictionary has been redesigned and visually improved with a two-column format interspersed with boxes that provide origin of the idioms.

The idioms are arranged by keyword with a concise definition and sometimes the origin and an illustrative quotation. An index in which the idioms are grouped by subject–Haste and speed, Jealousy and envy, Poverty, Weather– has been added.

The book has a definite British-English and Australian tone. British spelling is used (checque, favours, labour), and many of the idioms are unique to a particular country. Idioms that were not in the first edition or in other idiom dictionaries include hot to trot, New York minute, and wazoo. New illustrative quotations are included from Frank McCourt, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian. Surprisingly, 24/7 has not yet found its place in a dictionary of idioms.

The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms is current, but the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (1997) concentrates on American English. Oxford Reference Online includes the first edition of the Oxford dictionary, and the second will probably appear soon. Libraries that need an up-to-date hardcover source for idioms should consider this new edition.

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