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This answer is more relevant to English Language Learners and indeed it's well answered with lots of resources in the Meta on that site: Resources for learning English. Some of the resources mentioned there are free. The mechanics of migration and closing as a duplicate mean that leaving this question here as a signpost to ELL is worthwhile.


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EL&U Meta's very own community-wiki-based question What good reference works on English are available? includes an answer headed "Historical Resources" that consists of sections devoted to early (pre–Samuel Johnson) general dictionaries and somewhat early (pre-1900) slang dictionaries. That answer is currently at 15 upvotes, so you have to ...


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This seems like the perfect job for the Early English Books Online corpus which is 755 million words covering the 1470s to 1690s. You can access this via the BYU website. It’s very easy to use for basic searches, though there’s a lot more that you can do. For late in your time frame (late 1700s+), try newspaper databases. The only problem with that is these ...


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One valuable resource is Lexicons of Early Modern English (LEME) from the University of Toronto, which has searchable full-text of early printed English lexicons from 1480-1755. Using that and Early English Books Online (EEBO) together is a powerful combo for helping to date specific uses of words. If you want to go earlier, the Middle English Compendium ...


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A great resource is Google books. You can specify a number of parameters including dates and key words - even key phrases if you enclose them in quotes. You will get plenty of hits although there may be duplication. Often the first hits for this period are from the Bible but scrolling down will find other publications. Here is an example with the parameters, ...


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