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Oxford of English Dictionary (OED) Query

Hi All,

I am writing to enquire about the Key to the symbols, punctuation, or letters used in the ‘Forms’ section of an entry in OED. For example, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/35784?redirectedFrom=caoua#eid. What does 15 mean? If it means the 15th century (1401 – 1500), then why it is said 1598 next to the word 'Coffee' when you search for it? In addition, what the Greek letters refer to? Furthermore, what does the half round bracket means in this form of the word Coffee: coffi(e?

I would really be happy for your help.

Many thanks.

Kind regards,

Salam Aazam

Comments

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited March 26

    @SalamFaridAazam, I expect there are online explanations somewhere. I can't find them, but I think I do understand.

    The term form applies to visible variation. As it's a written work, the dictionary has to rely on spellings — even if the editors think that they reflect pronunciations.

    The editors have divided the early spellings into three groups:

    • one set with spellings in U or V rather than F, many of them also with H
    • one set with spellings in F or FF and ending in A
    • one set with spellings in F or FF and ending in E or I or Y or a combination IE or EY or EA

    This suggests that there were three groups of early pronunciations:

    • one set close to the Turkish kahveh
    • one set with an F-sound and ending in some sort of A-sound
    • one set with an F-sound and ending with some sort of I-sound or E-sound

    They identify these three groups in the Forms section so that we can refer back. It would be confusing to use numbers 1, 2 ,3 or letters a, b, c because they are used for divisions and subdivisions of the meaning. So they use letters of the Greek alphabet α, β, γ.

    They divide the meanings into 1, 2, 3, 4.
    They subdivide 1 into a, b, c.
    They show the history of 1a as the histories of the three groups of spellings α, β, γ.

    As you spotted, none of the quotes are from the fifteenth century. It follows that 15 must mean the fifteen hundreds, the sixteenth century.

    The spelling coffi(e is a short way of writing the two variants coffi and coffie.

  • @DavidCrosbie said:

    The spelling coffi(e is a short way of writing the two variants coffi and coffie.

    Is the half round bracket ( ( ) is used often in this way in English to denote that? Is not it supposed to be full round brackets on the surrounding the last letter?

    Many thanks for your detailed explanation. I do really appreciate it.

    Kind regards,
    Salam

  • Is the half round bracket ( ( ) is used often in this way in English to denote that?

    Not that I know of. I've seen it in the OED and one other historical dictionary.

    I'm not sure why they don't use a pair of brackets. Presumably they reserve this for other uses.

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