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How To Cite The Oxford English Dictionary: Using MLA And APA

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Writing academic essays and research papers can be more complex than it already is when you don’t know how to cite the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

It becomes even more confusing depending on what type of OED you’re using, online or print. Why? Because you cite them in different ways. You can now rest easy since you’ve come to the right place. Read more if you want to learn how to cite the Oxford English Dictionary. 

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MLA or APA? 

The first step to citing any reference is to figure out what style you need to follow: MLA or APA? What’s the difference, you ask?

Good question!

The most significant is that MLA (Modern Language Association) is used for arts and humanities while APA (American Psychology Association) is for social science. Once you determine which style you need to use, you’re on your way to writing an academic essay

How To Cite The Oxford English Dictionary Using MLA 9th Edition

Library Database

Known Author

If you’re accessing the Oxford English Dictionary via a library database and you know who the author is, this is how you cite it. 

Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Entry.” Title of Encyclopedia or Dictionary, edited by Editor’s First Name Last Name, Edition if given and not first edition, vol. Volume Number if more than one volume, Publisher Name, Date of Publication, pp. First Page-Last Page. Name of Database. https://doi.org/DOI if there is one.

If the word you’re referencing is only found on one page, list it as such—no need to write it as a first page-last page. But if there’s no page number, you can choose to omit it. What if you don’t know who the editors are or what volume it is? You can also leave them out of your citation.  

In-Text Citation: 

(Author’s Last Name, page number)

If the page number is unavailable:

(Author’s Last Name)

Unknown Author

What if you don’t know who the author is? Here’s how to cite your entry.

“Title of Entry.” Title of Encyclopedia or Dictionary, edited by Editor’s First Name Last Name, Edition if given and not first edition, vol. Volume Number, Publisher Name, Date of Publication, pp. First Page-Last Page. Name of Database. https://doi.org/DOI if there is one.

What if you don’t have specific information such as pages volume numbers and editors? You don’t have to include them. 

In-Text Citation: 

Since you don’t know the author, you need to input the first one to three words from the entry title. Please remember to enclose the title within quotation marks. Also, don’t forget to capitalise the first letter of each word. Just like this:

(“Diversity”)

Website

Known Author

Perhaps the easiest way to access the Oxford English Dictionary is through their various websites. If you know the author, here’s how to cite it:

Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Entry.” Title of Encyclopedia or Dictionary, Publication or Update Date, URL. Accessed Day Month Year site was visited.

Did you notice that “Accessed Day Month Year site was visited” is unique to website citations? If you’re wondering, it simply refers to the day you visited the website. Also, don’t forget to abbreviate the month for the publication/update date and the accessed date; it’s necessary to abbreviate the month. 

In-Text Citation: 

(Author’s Last Name, page number)

If the page number is unavailable:

(Author’s Last Name)

Unknown Author

If you don’t know who the author is, you can cite your entry this way:

“Title of Entry.” Title of Encyclopedia or Dictionary, Publisher if known, Copyright Date or Date Updated, URL. Accessed Day Month Year site was visited.

In-Text Citation: 

With the lack of author information, all you have to do is place the first one to three words of the entry title within quotation marks. Remember to capitalise the first letter of each term. Here’s how:

(“Victorian”)

In-Print

Known Author

Of course, we can’t forget physical Oxford English Dictionaries! If you intend to use one, here’s how you can cite the material:

Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of Entry.” Title of Encyclopedia or Dictionary, edited by Editor’s First Name Last Name, Edition if given and not first edition, vol. Volume Number, Publisher Name, Year of Publication, pp. First Page-Last Page.

In-Text Citation: 

(Author’s Last Name, page number)

Unknown Author

In case the author’s name is not provided, just the editors’, cite it this way: 

 “Title of Entry.” Title of Encyclopedia or Dictionary, edited by Editor’s First Name Last Name, Edition if given and not first edition, vol. Volume Number, Publisher Name, Year of Publication, pp. First Page-Last Page.

In-Text Citation: 

Since there’s no author information available, you can use the first one to three words of the entry title and enclose it with quotation marks. Capitalise the first letter of each word. Then place the page number after. Take a look at this:

(“Middle Age” 545)

How To Cite Two Authors

How should you cite the material if there are two authors? By listing them how they appear on the page. Not alphabetically! 

First Author’s Last Name, First Author’s First Name, and First Name Last Name of Second Author

Here’s what it will look like:

Will, Thomas, and Melissa Jones

How To Cite More Than Two Authors

If there are more than two authors, what you need to do is to focus on the first author in the list. 

Last Name, First Name, et al. 

In actual practice, it will look like this:

Will, Thomas, et al.

How To Cite The Oxford English Dictionary Using APA 7th Edition

The APA style is more straightforward than the MLA. When citing authors, remember it’s only the last name that’s spelt out. The first name is abbreviated. If the author’s name is Melissa Jones, the citation will look like this:

Jones, M. 

If the author’s middle name is given, for instance, Melissa Smith Jones, here’s how to cite it. 

Jones, M.S. 

When referencing the Oxford English Dictionary you find online, determine if it’s an archived version or not. If not, it means that the dictionary is continuously being updated. 

Online Archived Version: 

Author A. A. (Date). Title of entry. In E. E. Editor (Ed.), Name of dictionary/encyclopedia. URL.

Online Version With Continuous Updates:

Author A. A. (n.d.). Title of entry. In E. E. Editor (Ed.), Name of dictionary/encyclopedia (edition, if not the first). Publisher. URL.

No Authors, But There Are Editors: 

Editor, A., & Editor, B. (Eds.). (Date). Dictionary/Encyclopedia entry. In Name of dictionary/encyclopedia (edition, if not the first). Publisher.

No Authors And No Editors: Use Company As Corporate Author

Corporate Author. (Date). Dictionary/Encyclopedia entry. In Name of dictionary/encyclopedia (edition, if not the first). Publisher.

In-Text Citation

(Author’s last name, date)

Wrapping Up 

There you have it! By now you know how to cite the Oxford English Dictionary using both the MLA and APA styles. You’ll be more confident writing your papers from now on.

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