top of page

The Open English Dictionary

How do words get added to the English dictionary? What does it mean when a word is added to the dictionary? How many words are in the English dictionary? Annabel answers all your questions about the English Dictionary, and one about the word "Ardor".

New words are popping up in English every day. Created as street slang, generated to describe a new phenomenon, or popularized as a new derivative of an existing word, neologisms are more common in English than in any other language. So far this year, nearly 1400 words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). You can keep up with the dictionary updates, which are published quarterly, here:

In order for a word to be added to the dictionary, Oxford uses a combination of experts, crowdsourcing and increasingly computer automation to identify new words and new uses of words. Suggestions for new words come from online submissions to the OED website or from Oxford’s database analyses. Anyone can send in a word for review – no expertise or credentials required. These suggestions are then reviewed by Oxford’s team of language experts. There are thousands and thousands every year!

The OED doesn’t just publish a dictionary entry for every suggested new word. They rely on evidence that shows the word has actually been used in a way that be objectively documented. Sources like newspapers, publications and social media can prove that a word has a meaning that is shared and generally accepted among a community of people.

After all, words only gain meaning through social use. If you make up a word and use it in writing or speech, the person(s) to whom you are speaking must be able to understand what you mean.

This open-source approach to the English language is radically different from the process some other languages use to admit new words to their lexicon. France famously has the Académie Française (French Academy), whose 40 “immortal” members are the sole deciders of what gets published into the French dictionary.

Where the Oxford English Dictionary contains 273,000 headwords and 600,00 definitions, the official French language dictionary contains only half that number.

The Académie Française published 150 new words last year. Oxford regularly publishes approximately 700 words each quarter – or 2800 words per year.

For a fascinating accounting of the world’s dictionaries, check out this chart on Wikipedia:

A Side Note:

For those who are wondering, “ardor” is in the Oxford English Dictionary. Defined as enthusiasm or passion, the word is derived from the Latin “ardere” – to burn and from the Old French word “ardor”.

The word “ardor” was most famously used by Abigail Adams, wife of the second US President, John Adams. In a letter to her son (John Quincy Adams, who became the 6th President of the United States) in 1780, she wrote:

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.”

This quote inspired our brand name, and the passion and dedication to learning that “ardor” connotes form the foundation of our work at Ardor.

To hear the correct English pronunciation of "Ardor", you can enter the word into the Google search bar and you will see this audio link.

Happy learning!


Success! You are subscribed.

bottom of page