The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary: a new edition

by the ANDC team

The Australian National Dictionary Centre and Oxford University Press Australia are proud to announce the publication of the seventh edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary.

The first edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1976)

The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary has a distinguished place in the history of Australian lexicography. The first edition was published in 1976, edited by Grahame Johnston, a professor of English at the University of New South Wales. Before this the dictionaries used in Australia were imported from Britain or America, and they largely ignored the contribution that Australian English had made to the English language.

Grahame Johnston, in association with Oxford University Press Australia, championed the importance of Australian studies. He became general editor of OUP’s three series of publications on Australian literature—Australian Writers and Their Work, Australian Bibliographies, and Selected Essays on Australian Writers. He then turned his attention to Australian English, and this work led to his editing of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, the first dictionary to reflect the way Australians use the English language. Based on a British version of the Oxford Pocket Dictionary, it was thoroughly revised and Australianised. In his preface Johnston wrote:

‘Every entry has been scrutinised for its application to Australian conditions, with the result that the book contains a wealth of information about our way of life, political and cultural institutions, characteristic idioms, games, and flora and fauna.’

He expressed his purpose succinctly in a newspaper interview: ‘What I have consciously tried to do is to turn what was meant to be a dictionary for English people into a dictionary for Australians’ (Canberra Times, 27 October 1976). The first edition of the Pocket was followed by a second edition in 1984, edited by George W. Turner, a noted scholar of Australian English at the University of Adelaide.

Grahame Johnston, editor of the first edition. Image source: Humanities Research Centre, ANU

The next significant step in the evolution of the Pocket followed the publication of the Australian National Dictionary in 1988. The Australian National Dictionary, a historical dictionary of Australianisms recording some 10,000 words and meanings, is the product of the most detailed research ever undertaken into the history of the Australian vocabulary. The year of its publication also saw the establishment of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, jointly funded by the Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia. A site was thus established for academic research into the history of Australian English, especially the history of its words, and for the editing of authoritative Australian dictionaries.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre at the ANU

One of the first dictionaries produced by the Australian National Dictionary Centre was the third edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary in 1993, edited by Dr Bruce Moore (who became Director of the Centre in 1994). The research that went into the production of the Australian National Dictionary brought a new understanding of the nature and size of the Australian vocabulary, and this is reflected in a huge increase in the number of Australian words in the third edition of the Pocket. These included colloquialisms, terms of historical significance, terms for flora and fauna, and borrowings from Aboriginal languages. Special attention was paid to the history of words that were taken from more than 60 of the 250 Aboriginal languages that were spoken in Australia at the time of European settlement. Since this is a dictionary aimed primarily at students, the number of illustrative sentences, showing how particular meanings might be used, was greatly increased, and a deliberate attempt was made to give them a distinctly Australian flavour.

The fourth edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1996)

While much of the content was new, the theoretical underpinning continued the tradition that had been established by Johnston’s first edition of the Pocket. This is spelt out by Moore in the preface to the third edition:

‘While it is true that most readers consult a dictionary to find out how to spell a word, to discover how to pronounce it, to find out what it means, etc.—and a good dictionary must satisfy these needs—it is also true that a good dictionary is a cultural document, and should tell us something about the culture it at once reflects and serves—in this case the uniquely Australian culture.’

This approach continued to inform subsequent editions edited by Moore, the last being the sixth edition (2007).

The seventh edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary is the first major edition of a dictionary from the Australian National Dictionary Centre since the recent appointment of Dr Amanda Laugesen as Director of the Centre. It comes from a new team of editors—Mark Gwynn, Amanda Laugesen, and Julia Robinson. This edition retains the popular features of previous editions and adds many new Australian and international words and meanings. All Australian words and meanings are labelled with an ‘Aust.’ regional marker.

The seventh edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (2013)

To update the Pocket the editors drew on the resources of the Centre. It maintains a continually updated electronic database of Australian words and quotations, and through its association with Oxford University Press has access to the massive database of World English that is the core of the Oxford English Dictionary project at Oxford University. The Australian dictionaries published by Oxford University Press Australia derive from this dual authority—the research of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and the resources of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The new words and meanings in this edition reflect the important areas of contemporary word creation. There are words from the continually expanding world of computing, the Internet, social media, science, and technology, including click rate, cloud computing, coal seam gas, cyberbullying, delist, docking station, fracking, god particle, hashtag, nanobot, paywall, roaming, sexting, skype, terabyte, 3-D printing, Twittersphere, and widget.

Popular culture has in recent years produced terms such as alcopop, baby bump, bromance, bucket list, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, dramality, FOMO, grey market, mash-up, noob, selfie, supersize, and Zumba. The areas of politics, economics, and the environment have generated such terms as brownfield, dead cat bounce, downcycling, food mile, green-collar, green-on-blue, green tape, LGBT, locavore, ninja loan, Ponzi scheme, quantitative easing, start-up, trend growth, upcycling, and venture capital.

Australian English continues to have a dynamic and expanding vocabulary. Some of the words added to this edition include angasi, apera, Barry Crocker, double plugger, fossil farming, Fonzie flat, hook turn, law woman, NBN, Ozmas, pizzling, puggle, rushed behind, schmick, sydharb, topaque, and welcome to country.

As an aid to students a number of words have been added in light of the development of the Australian national school curriculum. These include asymptote, bimodal, commutative, distributive, intertextuality, magic square, metonymy, modality, nominalise, onset and rime, outlier, rectifier, and subitising. For today’s students the Internet is a major source of information, but it can offer a confusing range of reference material, often of questionable quality. This dictionary offers, by contrast, carefully researched and authoritative information about a wide range of lexical material—meanings, spelling variants, pronunciation, etymology, usage notes, and grammar guide.

The editors of the seventh edition are proud to be a part of the continuing history of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, a work that is an essential and compact guide to English as it is written and spoken in Australia.

5 thoughts on “The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary: a new edition

  1. What does law woman mean? I don’t have access to the dictionary, and it is too hard to google for because of false hits with a sentence ending with law followed by a sentence beginning with woman.

  2. Pingback: Twerk for word of the year? - News & events - ANU

  3. What is the reason for excluding the word ‘aplenty’ from the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary? This word is not uncommon in the literature that students read and may also be used in verbal communication.

    • Thanks for pointing out this omission in the Pocket Dictionary. Previous editors may have made the decision to leave ‘aplenty’ out when considering space constraints. It certainly appears in our Concise Dictionary. I will note this down for the next edition. Thanks!

Comments are closed.