Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins by Julia Cresswell (Editor)

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Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins by Julia Cresswell (Editor)

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Buy Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins by Julia Cresswell (Editor) at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Reference
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A gem for anyone who loves words - we get the origin of a thousand of them in an accessible, interesting format.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2014
Publisher: OUP Oxford
ISBN: 978-0199683635

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Derived from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins, the Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins tells the stories behind a thousand words, divided into a hundred themes from Adventure through to Writing by way of the rest of the alphabet. For each word within a theme we're told in which language the it originated and its original meaning - thus for Infant we find that it comes from the Latin in meaning not and fari for speaking. The two parts put together tell of someone who has not yet reached legal majority rather than a child who has not yet learned the value of the word 'Why?' In Italian infante means youth as well as foot soldier. From this came infanteria, which English adopted as infantry in the sixteenth century.

I opened the book at random for that example, but you can see the quality of what's on offer. It's not just the origin of the word which we're given, but how it developed into other areas. It's wide ranging in the themes covered: you can find the origins of some favourite insults (loon comes from a North American waterbird and po-faced refers back to a chamber pot), consider your marriage (conjugal comes from the Latin jugum, meaning yoke and a trousseau was originally a bundle or package) or even revert to your school days. A bully used to be someone we all liked, and was derived from an old Dutch word meaning lover. By the end of the seventeenth century it meant admirable or jolly and then came to mean first rate which exists even today in the phrase bully for you.

They're gems, aren't they? The editor, Julia Cresswell is a language researcher and she has the ability to convey her message in accessible, jargon-free language which engages and interests the reader. It's easy to use too, with the themes arranged alphabetically through the book, as are the words within the themes and there's an index at the end which tells you in which theme you'll find the word.

It's the ideal book for dipping into in an idle moment, indeed for popping into a bag or pocket for those doctor's waiting room moments and would make an ideal and inexpensive present for anyone who loves words. If I had to be picky I'd say that it's only disadvantage is the fact that it is what it is - a 'Little Dictionary' and there will be words about which you wonder and which are not there. Kitchen - now where does that come from?

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy An Unkindness of Ravens: A Book of Collective Nouns by Chloe Rhodes.

Buy Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins by Julia Cresswell (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins by Julia Cresswell (Editor) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins by Julia Cresswell (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Little Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins by Julia Cresswell (Editor) at Amazon.com.

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