Tolkien Gateway

Oxford English Dictionary

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Revision as of 12:58, 26 July 2011

File:J.R.R. Tolkien's letter to the Oxford English Dictioanry.jpg
Tolkien's letter, explaining the entry "Hobbit".
"Tolkienian, a. Of or pertaining to the philologist and author of fantasy literature John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) or his writings."
― Oxford English Dictionary[1]

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), or New English Dictionary as it was called at its initiation, is the standard English dictionary. J.R.R. Tolkien spent several years as an assistant, and several of his own words and works would be cited in it.


Early History

The dictionary project started in 1878. Though it was orignially not a part of the University of Oxford, the institute took over the project later. The sections covering A-H were published by 1900, but both the war and the death of Sir James Murray, the original editor, in 1915 ment that the section U-Z was not complete yet.[2] After Murray's death, three editors remained: Henry Bradley, William Craigie, and C.T. Onions. Most of their assistants had gone to war and not returned (either not to the Dictionary or not at all), so new assistants were necessary.[3]

Tolkien and the OED

Tolkien in the OED

1928 edition

According to Gilliver et al., Tolkien worked on the following words:[3]

  • Waggle (noun & adjective)
  • Waggly
  • Wain
  • Waist
  • Waistband
  • Waist-cloth
  • Waistcoat
  • Waistcoated
  • Waistcoateer
  • Waisted
  • Waister
  • Waistless
  • Waist-rail
  • Waist-tree
  • Wait-a-bit
  • Waiter
  • Waitership
  • Waiting (noun & adjective)
  • Waiting-maid
  • Waiting-man
  • Waiting-room
  • Waiting-woman
  • Waitress
  • Wake (noun & verb)
  • Wake-robin
  • Wake-wort
  • Waldend
  • Wallop (noun & verb)
  • Walloper
  • Walloping (noun & adjective)
  • Walm (noun & verb)
  • Walming
  • Walnut
  • Walrus
  • Wampum
  • Wampumpeag
  • Wan (noun, adjective & verb)
  • Wander (noun & verb)
  • Wanderable
  • Wandered
  • Wanderer
  • Wandering (noun & adjective)
  • Wanderment
  • Wander-year
  • Wandreth
  • Wane (noun, adjective & verb)
  • Want (noun & verb)
  • Want-louse
  • Wariangle
  • Warlock (noun & verb)
  • Warlockry
  • Warm
  • Weald
  • Wealden
  • Wealding
  • Wield
  • Wild
  • Wold

Carpenter also notes:[2][3]

  • Wasp
  • Water
  • Wick
  • Winter

Second Supplement

The OED in Tolkien

The OED makes two appearances in Tolkien's work. The four original editors - Murray, Bradley, Craigie and Onions - were referenced in Farmer Giles of Ham:

"Some may well ask what a blunderbuss was. Indeed, this very question, it is said, was put to the Four Wise Clerks of Oxenford, and after thought they replied: 'A Blunderbuss is a short gun with a large bore firing many balls or slugs, and capable of doing execution within a limited range without exact aim. (Now superseded in civilized countries by other firearms.)' "
Farmer Giles of Ham[4]

Later, in The Notion Club Papers, the N.E.D. appears:

"'Yes, doink has come on a lot lately,' said Lowdham. 'But it's not brand-new, of course. I think it's first recorded, in the Third Supplement to the N.E.D., in the fifties, in the form dŏing: seems to have started in the Air Force in the Six Year's War"
Arundel Lowdham[5]


  1. OED Online, "Tolkienian, a." (subscription required)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, "2: Oxford Interlude"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Peter Gilliver, Jeffrey Marshall and Edmund Weiner, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, "Tolkien as Lexicographer"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Wayne G. Hammond, Christina Scull (eds.) Farmer Giles of Ham, page 15 (50th anniversary edition)
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.) Sauron Defeated, "The Notion Club Papers (Part Two)", page 223-224

External links