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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University Washington and Lee University The University Library

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Reference Resources: Language Reference

Recommended Resources

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

The OED is the accepted authority on the history of words in the English language. It is the most important guide to the meaning and history of over a half-million words, both past and present, tracing the meanings of these words through the use of over 2.5 million quotations, drawn from a wide range of sources. The database contains the Second Edition and additions, including quarterly updates of at least 1,000 new and revised entries.
The library also has the first and second editions in printed form.
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Acronym Finder

Over 550,000 acronyms and abbreviations.
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American Heritage Book Of English Usage

A "practical and authoritative guide to contemporary English." Covers grammar, style, diction, word formation, gender, social groups and scientific forms.
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American Language

This is H.L. Mencken's "inquiry into the development of English in the United States."
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Behind The Name

the etymology and history of first names
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Bilingual Dictionaries

This is a collection of bilingual dictionaries published by Oxford University Press, searcheable as a group or individually.
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Cambridge Guide To English Usage

2004 volume covers over 3,000 alphabetically-arranged points of word meaning, spelling, punctuation, grammar and style. The library also owns a printed copy.
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Dictionary Of Modern Proverbs

2012 work is a unique volume devoted exclusively to English-language proverbs that originated in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, listing more than 1,400 individual proverbs.
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Elements Of Style

Strunk's 1918 edition.
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English Dictionaries And Thesauruses

This is a collection of English-language dictionaries published by Oxford University Press, searchable as a group or individually.
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English Language Reference

A collection of English-language guides (style, grammar, proverbs, etc.) published by Oxford University Press, searchable as a group or individually.
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Ethnologue

The 16th edition of this massive compilation of information on over 6,900 languages around the world.
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Glossary Of English Grammar

Geoffrey Leech's 2006 collection of definitions of grammatical terms, with examples of use.
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Green’s Dictionary Of Slang

Jonothon Green's landmark collection (2010) of over 100,000 "impertinent, vile, censored, hip, witty, and fascinating slang words of the English language" reflects many years of research. Covers 500 years of English-language use, with supporting citations, from all English-speaking countries and regions, including the U.K., U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand, Ireland, the Anglophone Caribbean, and South Africa.
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Historical Thesaurus (Oxford English Dictionary)

A forty-year project, this database offers new access to the unique content of the Oxford English Dictionary, the premier etymological dictionary of the English language. In the words of one reviewer, "whereas a historical dictionary shows the ideas associated with a given word over the centuries, the Historical Thesaurus shows the words associated with a given idea."
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Literature Online (LION)

Literature Online is the leading online resource for the study and teaching of literature in English. It is a fully integrated service that combines the full text of over 357,250 works of literature with huge resources of criticism and reference.
Contemporary criticism is available through the full text of over 320 current literature journals that can be accessed through the renowned literary index, Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL), which contains literary criticism from 1920 to current.
You can also search the author information to find answers to questions such as: Who wrote The Lord of the Rings? Which authors were in Virginia Woolf's literary circle, The Bloomsbury Group? What African writers were influential in the 20th century? Which women authors were part of the Harlem Renaissance? What is the latest literary criticism on Hispanic American writers?
Literature Online brings together the contents of the following individual databases: Poetry Collections: American Poetry – Over 40,000 poems from more than 200 American poets English Poetry, Second Edition – Essentially the complete English poetic canon from the 8th century to the early 20th. Over 160,000 poems by more than 1,250 poets drawn from nearly 4,500 printed sources African-American Poetry – Nearly 3,000 poems written by African-American poets in the late 18th and 19th centuries Canadian Poetry – Created in partnership with the University of New Brunswick, it includes nearly 20,000 poems from the 17th century through the early 20th century Twentieth-Century American Poetry – More than 52,000 poems from over 750 20th-century American poets Twentieth Century African-American Poetry – 10,000 poems by more than 75 critically acclaimed African-American poets Prose Collections: Early American Fiction, 1789-1875 – More than 750 complete works of fiction by more than 130 authors, the canon of early American literature Early English Prose Fiction – Over 200 complete works of fiction from 1500-1700 Eighteenth-Century Fiction – 96 complete works of fiction by writers from the British Isles from 1700-1780 Nineteenth-Century Fiction – 250 complete novels from 1781 to 1903, including Dickens, Eliot and Hardy, as well as landmarks of Gothic and other Romantic period fiction Drama Collections: American Drama, 1714-1915 – Over 1,500 plays from the beginning of American theater to the early twentieth century English Drama, 1280-1915 – Combination of English Prose Drama and English Verse Drama, which offers 4,000 plays by 1,200 authors from the late 13th century to the early 20th century Premium Collections: MLA International Bibliography Twentieth- Century Drama – A substantial collection of plays written in English from the most significant dramatists of the 20th century. Fully inclusive, it offers a comprehensive collection of women and men writers, all ethnicities and many nationalities Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Second Edition – Combining two existing Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections with over 500 volumes of newly licensed material, this essential collection brings together the most important and influential poems representing the full range of movements and traditions in American poetry from 1900 to the present day Other Collections: Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) – Includes over 950,000 bibliographic records from 1920 to current King James Bible – This version of the Bible was the standard edition of the Bible for nearly three centuries and offers a Bible for reference Bible In English – 20 different versions of the English Bible from the 10th to the 20th centuries Editions and Adaptations of Shakespeare – The complete text of 11 major editions, 24 separate contemporary printings of individual plays, more than 100 adaptations from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries W.B. Yeats Collection – Yeats's complete works in electronic form Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged – This 1993 edition offers 450,000 vocabulary entries Bibliography of American Literature (BAL) – Bibliographic information on almost 40,000 American literary works by 300 American writers from the period of the Revolution to 1930, recorded in the BAL's nine volumes.
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Merriam-Webster Online

Dictionary and thesaurus.
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Middle English Compendium

The Compendium weaves together three separate resources: the Middle English Dictionary; the HyperBibliography; and the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse. The MEC was develped at the University of Michigan's Digital Library Production Service. It represents decades of effort, with almost 55,000 entries taken from nearly 900,000 quotations.
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Modern Language Association Language Map

Uses data from the 2000 United States census to display the locations and numbers of speakers of thirty languages and seven groups of less commonly spoken languages in U.S. counties and Zip Codes. The census data were based on responses to the question, "Does this person speak a language other than English at home?"
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New Oxford American Dictionary

Third edition (2010) contains more than 350,000 words and phrases in "American Ennglish," with an emphasis on contemporary use.
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Norton Field Guide To Writing

Online access to the third edition (2013) of this respected guide to writing for college students. The library also has a printed copy.
This site also contains guides to citation styles, annotated bibliographies, and more.
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Oxford Dictionary Of English Idioms

Third edition (2009) explains over 6,000 English-language idiomatic phrases and expressions, based in part on the ongoing updates to the Oxford English Dictionary.
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Oxford Dictionary Of Modern Slang

Second edition (revised 2010) provides explanations of 20th- and 21st-century slang from around the English-speaking world, covering about 6,000 words and expressions.
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Oxford Dictionary Of Phrase And Fable

Wide-ranging dictionary which explores nearly 8,000 names and sayings found in classic and contemporary literature and other writings.
Also available in our printed collection.
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Oxford Dictionary Of Rhymes

First edition (2006) "contains rhymes for 45,000 words, including proper names, place names, and foreign terms used in English."
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Oxford Dictionary Of Word Origins

Second edition (2009) succinctly "describes the origins and development of over 3,000 words and phrases in the English language." Much more detailed etymological information can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary.
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Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

The OED is the accepted authority on the history of words in the English language. It is the most important guide to the meaning and history of over a half-million words, both past and present, tracing the meanings of these words through the use of over 2.5 million quotations, drawn from a wide range of sources. The database contains the Second Edition and additions, including quarterly updates of at least 1,000 new and revised entries.
The library also has the first and second editions in printed form.
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Oxford Guide To Literature In English Translation

Published in 2000, this guide contains about 170 substantial entries on individual works (such as Virgil's Aeneid or Thousand and One Nights), writers, genres, and national literatures, complemented by more substanital essays on such issues as the problems of translating poetry. A printed volume is available in the library's collection.
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Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage

Second edition (2008) contains 4,000 entries offering respected advice on current use of the English language. The library also has related earlier publications in printed form.
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Pocket Oxford Latin Dictionary

"Over 100,000 words, phrases, and translations." Revised edition, 2005.
This is the Latin-to-English form of the dictionary. For English-to-Latin, see this link.
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REALIA Project

Rich Electronic Archive for Language Instruction Anywhere
The goal of the REALIA Project is to develop and implement a searchable digitized media database which will provide instructors of modern languages with teaching resources accessible via the Web. REALIA will publish royalty-free, faculty-reviewed media for scholars and students, and be open to all disciplines that wish to contribute or use cultural materials appropriate for instruction at the college and secondary level. The REALIA Project seeks to increase through collaboration the quantity of high-quality teaching and learning materials by providing a respected venue for media projects that otherwise might not be shared or published. This website showcases an image database prototype for use by the educational community. Sponsored by NITLE and NEH funds.
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Routledge Dictionary Of Modern American Slang And Unconventional English

2008 volume contains about 25,000 entries, accompanied by citations that authenticate the words, as well as offer lively examples of usage from popular literature, newspapers, magazines, movies, television shows, musical lyrics, and Internet user groups. Etymology, cultural context, country of origin and the date the word was first used are also provided.
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Short Cuts: A Guide To Oaths, Ring Tones, Ransom Notes, Famous Last Words, And Other Forms Of Minimalist Communication

From Alexander and Nicholas Humez, this delightful 2010 book explores the "ever-growing field of minimalist genres, ranging from the bank robbery note to the billboard, from the curse hurled from a car window (or the Senate floor) to the suicide note, and from the ghost-word to the ring tone. You may see an overview of the table of contents.
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Symbolism : A Comprehensive Dictionary

Second edition (2012) "defines the general symbolism of over 15,000 terms, from ancient to modern, as well as specialized meanings in mythology, religion, art, literature, folklore, flower language, astrology, heraldry, numerology," etc.
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Symbols.com

"more than 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics. In 1,600 articles their histories, uses, and meanings are thoroughly discussed. The signs range from ideograms carved in mammoth teeth by Cro-Magnon men, to hobo signs and subway graffiti."
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Translation Resources On The Web

Subtitled A Guide to Accurate, Free Sites, this compilation lists "gateways to precise multilingual dictionaries and glossaries, as well as directories with access to professional tools."
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Webster's New World Punctuation

2005 guide includes concise explanations of difficult rules, easy-to-understand examples, common pitfalls, suggestions for common writing formats (business letters, job applications, e-mail, etc.), and citation styles.
You can view the table of contents here.
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