From the category archives:

linguistics and lexicography

  • Don’t dis this prefix

    Posted by on December 05, 2016

    The prefix dis- is commonly added to words to give them an opposite or contrasting sense. It entered English from Latin dis-, or in some cases from Old French des-. On his affixes website Michael Quinion says the prefix ‘had various linked senses in Latin, such as reversal, moving apart, removal or separation’, or sometimes […]

    Read the full article
  • Seachangers, salad days and skim milk

    Posted by on November 28, 2016

    In her third and final post about the links between the language of Shakespeare and the language of today, BuzzWord author Kerry Maxwell shows how the Bard’s metaphors live on in modern English. _____________ In Australian English, the word seachanger has in recent years become the catchy new way to describe a person who shuns […]

    Read the full article
  • ‘Net migration’: when does a term move from policy into the press?

    Posted by on November 21, 2016

    Our latest guest post looks at the fascinating topic of the language used to talk about migration. Will Allen is a Research Officer with The Migration Observatory and the Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society (COMPAS), both based at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the ways that media, public opinion, and policymaking […]

    Read the full article
  • Quoting Shakespeare – of icebreakers and idioms

    Posted by on November 09, 2016

    In the second of her posts about the links between the language of Shakespeare and the language of today, BuzzWord author Kerry Maxwell considers the Bard’s role in coining idioms we use without a second thought. _____________ English is a language rich in idioms and fixed phrases, language forms that trip unconsciously from the tongues […]

    Read the full article
  • Dictionary labels part III: literary, humorous, and the rest

    Posted by on November 07, 2016

    This is the third and final post in a mini-series on the style labels used in Macmillan Dictionary. Previous posts looked at the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ and ‘offensive’ labels; this one addresses the others. Aside from labels marking (in)formality, the most common are ‘literary’, ‘spoken’, ‘humorous’, ‘old-fashioned’, and ‘journalism’. These are not absolute categories, of […]

    Read the full article
  • Dictionary labels part II: the offensive ‘lunatic’

    Posted by on October 03, 2016

    Last month I began a series of posts looking at style labels in Macmillan Dictionary. These are supplementary tags, like ‘humorous’, ‘impolite’ and ‘old-fashioned’, that help readers understand the nature and use of a word. The first post focused on ‘formal’ and ‘informal’, and this one explores the extreme end of that axis: offensive language. […]

    Read the full article
  • Dictionary labels part I: the very informal ‘bawbag’

    Posted by on September 05, 2016

    In the first of a short series of posts on the labels used in Macmillan Dictionary, Stan Carey looks at how different levels of formality are indicated. A common perception of dictionaries is that they are collections of spellings and definitions. These are certainly major features. You encounter a word you don’t know, or about […]

    Read the full article
  • Sharing the love on Facebook

    Posted by on August 09, 2016

    In case you missed the news – and we’ll excuse you if you did given everything else that’s been going on in the world lately – our Facebook page, MacDictionary, has just reached 100,000 likes. Just to put that in context, that’s more than enough of you dictionary fiends to fill Wembley stadium. Now think […]

    Read the full article
  • Word lovers, meet your match

    Posted by on August 01, 2016

    Macmillan Dictionary’s word of the day and phrase of the week features are a match made in heaven for word lovers and English-language learners. One recent phrase of the week – in the middle of Wimbledon’s tennis matches – was meet your match. Matches, matches, everywhere. Where did they come from, and how are they […]

    Read the full article
  • As You Dislike It

    Posted by on July 04, 2016

    Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves is rightly celebrated for its lyrical, experimental style. After each session of writing it, when her mind was ‘agape and red-hot’, she read Shakespeare. Her diary entry of 13 April 1930 reveals the awe Woolf felt at the playwright’s ‘word coining power’ and creative speed, producing words that ‘drop so […]

    Read the full article