How dictionaries preserve and celebrate Australian English

Through the last 30 years, the Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC), in collaboration with Oxford University Press (OUP), has produced Australia’s most authoritative and successful dictionaries, as well as a significant number of research monographs. This body of work has documented the rich history and contemporary dimensions of Australian English.

Before the production of the first edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, there were no general reference dictionaries of English that recognised Australian usage, and no scholarly dictionary of the Australian English vocabulary since the publication of E.E. Morris’ Austral English in 1898. The work of the team of lexicographers that would go on to produce both the Macquarie Dictionary and the first edition of the Australian National Dictionary would change all that.

These first dictionaries of Australian English and English as it is used in Australia reflected a rising tide of cultural nationalism in Australia. But they also marked a sense of confidence and independence in our language use. Australian English was no longer peripheral but the norm.

The ANDC has remained Australia’s leading research centre into the evolution of the Australian English vocabulary, supplemented by the research of scholars around Australia and the world.

The Australian National Dictionary

The first edition of the Australian National Dictionary: A Dictionary of Australianisms on Historical Principles, edited by W.S. (Bill) Ramson, was published in 1988, but was the product of many years of work by a team of editors and researchers. Bill’s PhD thesis was a study of the vocabulary of 19th century Australia, and this convinced him of the need for a dictionary of Australianisms, based on historical evidence, that could reveal the history of settler Australia. The final product, consisting of some 10,000 entries, was an immensely important contribution to the documentation of the Australian variety of English, and to Australia’s cultural life.

The second edition of the Australian National Dictionary, edited by Bruce Moore, appeared in 2016. It was the product of many years of research and almost doubled the length of the original dictionary. It was quickly recognised as another landmark publication, and received a great deal of publicity – Australians now recognise and celebrate the distinctiveness of our vocabulary.

The ANDC’s team of lexicographers are now hard at work collecting material for the third edition, and already have several thousand possible entries to consider. The next edition will be an online dictionary, and will make the dictionary accessible to an even wider audience.

The Australian National Dictionary is now available at the special anniversary price of $145.00.

The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary

The first edition of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary was published in 1976, and was edited by Grahame Johnston. This was the first Australian general reference dictionary to be produced, and was based on the Pocket Oxford Dictionary. As Johnston writes in his preface: ‘Every entry has been scrutinized 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’. The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary is Australia’s best-selling dictionary.

From the third edition (1993) through to the sixth edition (2007), the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary was edited by Bruce Moore. The seventh edition was edited by Amanda Laugesen, Julia Robinson, and Mark Gwynn, and the eighth edition by Amanda Laugesen and Mark Gwynn. It continues to be an indispensable guide to English as it is written and spoken in Australia.

To herald the 30th anniversary of the ANDC, the first printing of the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary eighth edition includes a limited edition dust jacket.







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