When I say dictionary, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of the stuffy, outdated tomes pushed into the back corners of a bookshelf in the local library. But did you know that dictionaries are constantly changing, adapting, and adding new words and phrases to their vast word lists? The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is one such publication.

The OED makes regular quarterly updates to its dictionaries, and the latest additions were just published in the online version in March of 2015. Approximately 500 new entries were added this quarter. Check out some of the most peculiar new words:ear opening (n.), hadda (v.), havey-cavey (adj.), laters (int.) and lookbook (n.). The phrase Earl Grey tea is also among the new subentries included in this round. Edmund Weiner, deputy chief editor at OED, published release notes offering additional discussion on the different meanings of many well-known words that have also been added this go-around—detailing how some of the new dictionary additions fit in to the existing verb branch structures of have and look.

Jonathan Dent, assistant editor of the OED, goes into further detail about the additions this quarter. In his review of the additions, Dent covers many of the new entries, such as coming out of our earswhite stuffwhite water, and elaborates on the new variations of the verb have as well. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of white stuff (a.k.a. snow), which feels very appropriate for me, a New Englander, after such a snowy winter! The March update also includes more than 30 English names given to plants and animals that include the word white.

The history of the dictionary reaches far back. Just as contemporary dictionaries are compiled and reworked to accommodate new words, expressions, idioms and the like, so too ancient dictionary makers were tasked with reworking old editions. One of the first known word lists was of Akkadian origin in central Mesopotamia in the seventh century BCE. Traditional dictionary making as we know it today began with the Greeks, when—as their language started changing—explanations and commentaries were required to keep up the entries.

One of the oldest items in the update is the word arrish-hen, an Old English name for a common quail bird that has not been used since the Norman Conquest. Several idiomatic phrases that stem from the verb look have also been added as subentries, including the following: look the other waybe always looking over their shoulder and lookalike. As you can see, there are a plethora of new entries, some following similar verb or expression trends. The next OED update comes out June of this year. Don’t forget to check back and see what has been added; I know I look forward to it!

Did You Know? 

Widely regarded as the first single-language English dictionary, Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall—subtitled for the benefit of Ladies, Gentlewomen, and other unskilled folk—was published in 1604. It defined 2,543 words, and its focus was on “hard” words—the ones not known to the general public. This dictionary precedes Samuel Johnson’s publication, which was seen as the first attempt at an inclusive dictionary.