Oxford Dictionaries Online has had a major site revamp. Since its brand name is simply "Oxford Dicationaries" (not Oxford Dictionaries Online) and its URL is https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/, I suggest that our FAQ entry containing the list of accepted abbreviations be updated to reflect this. In particular, I suggest that we drop the trailing O in ODO.

Although the FAQ is maintained as a community wiki and hence freely editable, freely editing it without community support can easily become messy. I'm therefore raising this as a meta question for support.

  • FAQ: List of common abbreviations and acronyms (NOAD, ESL, PIE...)

  • Current entry: ODO — Oxford Dictionaries Online (now "Oxford Living Dictionaries")

  • Suggested entry: OD — Oxford Dictionaries (former names: "Oxford Dictionaries Online" and "Oxford Living Dictionaries"; both were listed under the abbreviation "ODO")

If you support the change to OD, up-vote this question. If you prefer to leave it as ODO, down-vote this question.

  • 2
    I upvoted, but am personally of the opinion that any abbreviations used should be spelled out at first occurrence in a question-answer set.
    – JEL
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:08
  • I am voting against this in part because the proper abbreviation for the present name really is O.L.D. for "Oxford Living Dictionaries" (there's no reason to add O.D. too), and in part because that entry is too verbose: I prefer a list entry to have fewer lines if possible for quicker reading. However, having said that, I think this meta thread is too deferential for a community wiki post. It's made to be community wiki specifically so it can be easy to edit without consultation. Just do it and if somebody else dislikes it, they can roll it back or change it to something they think is better.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:33
  • 1
    You're suggesting these abbreviations, but are they what Oxford and others use for the new abbreviations? Anyway, keep the old abbreviations and add the new abbreviations, right?
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 19:09
  • @JEL Thanks. In dictionary citations, as opposed to Q&A about the dictionary, the abbreviation may only occur once, as the anchor word for the link to the dictionary entry. I'm quite happy to use just the abbreviation in those situations for standard references, but would often include author and title for other references. Note that even in scholarly works (at least in my field of Computer Science), citations regularly employ standard abbreviations.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 0:34
  • @Tonepoet Hmm, the word 'living' isn't in the title on the page I linked to, though it does appear after selecting the language. About being too deferential, I disagree. I'm proposing a change to a FAQ for a widely-used standard abbreviation. I'd rather have the full discussion here and even have this meta question eventually discarded than to have the FAQ rolled back.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 0:51
  • @Mitch That's a good point. In the text used for their legal notice, licensing and help pages, they use abbreviations for the parent entity (OUP, Oxford University Press) and The OED, but not Oxford Dictionaries. ...
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 1:09
  • 1
    @Mitch ... I found a reference to ODO in their blog, dated 28 August 2013. Interestingly, it refers to "OxfordDictionaries.com Online (ODO)", and not just "Oxford Dictionaries Online" as we have it in our FAQ. Unless there's compelling reason otherwise, I'll take this as an authoritative reference and leave the abbreviation as it stands.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 1:10
  • @Mitch About your last question - it's now moot in light of my previous comment. I didn't have a strong opinion either way, but if the existing entry was simply amended, I would have preferred to leave a note about the previous abbreviation.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 1:18
  • 2
    I can't be accused of putting my opinion on how it should be done ("abbreviations used should be spelled out") into practice consistently, so I won't hesitate to say that comparing ELU to a scholarly work is misleading. My concern is rather selfish: I don't like encountering abbreviations I need to look up when a few extra keystrokes on the part of the author could've spared me the research effort. For citations, if the source provides a citation (as is the case with The Free Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary, for examples) I feel it is owed to the source to respect their desire.
    – JEL
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 5:25
  • 1
    Whoa dude... you just answered your own question in your question, and at the top of your question, and the reverse of what you suggest later in the question. That's messed up. So those who voted on your question, should they come back and reverse their vote? Very confusing. If you must, remove your edit and put it as an alternative answer. Also your edit doesn't seem coherent with respect to time; aren't you trying to get what the abbreviation should be today based on name changes at Oxford within the past few months? I'm so confused by all your time references.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 13:37
  • @Mitch Thanks again. Good recommendation, and yes, I was wondering about the timing as well, though the URL seems to have remained constant during that time. I'll change my update to an answer.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 14:07
  • Why do we need an abbreviation in the first place when you can spend a few more seconds to type the whole phrase? I really don't understand the reason to abbreviate whatever is used on English Language and Usage. A long time user (3+ years) here doesn't even know what MSE is. I have used "Oxford Online Dictionary" for the last 13 months and nobody complained about it. The best abbreviation I see is OLD and I don't like it.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 16:57
  • 1
    @Rathony Interesting question. It depends on the context and intent. Here's one rationale: in English at least, the space occupied by a piece of text in relation to nearby pieces of text can serve as a form of highlighting. When quoting dictionary definitions, the definition is usually of more interest than the source. Using an abbreviation allows the citation to be visually smaller.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 23:03

2 Answers 2


Changing the abbreviation from ODO to OD would invalidate existing answers, and the list is intended to help people interpret existing answers, not just assist in creating new answers.

Any change has to be "backwards-compatible".

That's why in the most recent revision I maintained ODO as the abbreviation for the online Oxford Dictionaries at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com. Incidentally, calling "Oxford Living Dictionaries" a "former" name as in your suggestion is incorrect.

Cross-referencing with the pre-existing Oxford dictionary with L in its abbreviation helps avert confusion in choosing the abbreviation to use.

Even if OD were accepted as an abbreviation, ODO would still need to appear, and the differentiation for "Oxford Living Dictionary" would also still be needed. It creates an extra level of complexity.

It may be possible to lay out the list more clearly, although I don't think it's exactly unclear now.

While you're right that "freely editing it without community support can easily become messy," I don't believe the change I made, keeping ODO for the dictionary's new persona and disambiguating a potential confusion, was actually a substantive change. Currently the list reflects the status quo and has not introduced anything new.

While I made the latest change, and so naturally I support its current content, I'm not averse to improvement. But improvement must not invalidate existing answers or make the list useless in interpreting existing answers; nor should it introduce unnecessary complexity. I do not support the introduction of OD (and have voted on the question accordingly — this answer explains why I did that).

  • I agree with most of the things suggested here as indicated by my comment, plus the fact that O.D.O. needs to be referenced for the sake of any unedited older answers, but to be fair, the proposal under consideration does not suggest removing reference to O.D.O., so that should not be a factor when deciding whether we should accept the change presently proposed or not.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:58
  • The landing page I linked to doesn't include the word 'living' as part of the dictionary's title, though it does appear after selecting English. Since the dictionary's name changed, we would be creating a new abbreviation for a new name. This doesn't invalidate previous answers - they still refer to the old name. Nevertheless, I've since found a blog using ODO to refer to the current dictionary (see this comment), so I'm satisfied with keeping ODO.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 8:40
  • Why couldn't we simply revise ODO to mean Oxford dictionaries online instead of Oxford DIctionaries Online? Similar changes have worked pretty well for GSM and GPO and others.
    – choster
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 18:37

(Based on a comment)

I found a reference to ODO in the dictionary's blog, dated 28 August 2013. Interestingly, it refers to "OxfordDictionaries.com Online (ODO)", not "Oxford Dictionaries Online" as we have it in our FAQ. Unless there's compelling reason otherwise, I'll take this as an authoritative reference and leave the abbreviation as it stands.

Although the time of this blog predates the recent dictionary 'refresh', the domain name has remained the same. The domain name was one of two justifications for changing the abbreviation, the other being the name displayed on the dictionary's landing page.

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