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University of Oxford Faculty of English

Brewer, Professor Charlotte

Job Title: Professor of English Language and Literature, CUF Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow
College: Hertford
Period/ Subject: Medieval, Language

Email address:

Research Interests

My current research centres on the history of the OED, from its beginnings in the late 1850s up to and including the major online revision currently underway down the road at Oxford University Press. I’m particularly interested in OED’s coverage of individual authors and periods in the language (Shakespeare, Austen, the 18th century), its consequent influence on literary and linguistic history, and its treatment of areas of language relating to culture and society (e.g. politics, sex & gender, usage and correctness). Some of my research can be seen on my website Examining the OED.

I began my research career as a medievalist, with publications on the late Middle English poem Piers Plowman and its textual and editing history, e.g. Piers Plowman: the Z Version (ed. with A. G. Rigg, Toronto, 1983) and Piers Plowman: the Evolution of the Poem (Cambridge University Press, 1996; reprinted 2006) – and most recently the collection of essays edited with Barry Windeatt on the contribution of Derek Brewer to the study of medieval English literature, Traditions and Innovations in the Study of Middle English Literature: The Influence of Derek Brewer, published by Boydell and Brewer (2013).

Teaching Areas:

Graduate Teaching and Supervision

MSt course on English Language


Old and Middle English; the English Language

Recent Publications:


The Society's Dictionary: Articles and Excerpts on the OED. Virtual issue of The Transactions of the Philological Society available here at (accessed March 2014)

Traditions and Innovations in the Study of Middle English Literature: The Influence of Derek Brewer, ed. Charlotte Brewer and Barry Windeatt, Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 2013

Treasure-House of the Language: the Living OED, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2007


--'Metalanguage and Labelling in English Dictionaries', in The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography, ed. Philip Durkin, Oxford University Press, forthcoming

--‘Shakespeare and the OED’, forthcoming in the Cambridge World Shakespeare Encyclopedia, ed. Bruce Smith et al

--‘OED Online Re-launched: Distinguishing old scholarship from new’, Dictionaries 34 (2014), 101-26

--'The future of historical dictionaries', in The Bloomsbury Companion to Lexicography, ed. Howard Jackson, Bloomsbury, London, 2013, 341-54

--'Words and Dictionaries: OED, MED and Chaucer', in Traditions and Innovations in the Study of Middle English Literature: The Influence of Derek Brewer, ed. Charlotte Brewer and Barry Windeatt, D. S. Brewer, 215-61

--‘Shakespeare, word-coining, and the OED’, Shakespeare Survey Volume 65 (2013), 345-57

--‘“Goose-quill or Gander’s”? Female writers in Johnson’s Dictionary’, in Samuel Johnson: The Arc of the Pendulum, ed. Freya Johnston and Lynda Mugglestone, Oxford University Press (2012), 120-139 

--‘Dictionary-making, usage, literature and the classics: the unhappy fate of Oxford’s Quarto dictionary 1925-1958’, in Codification, canons, and curricula, ed Ulrich Busse, Ralf Schneider, and Anne Schröder, Aisthesis Verlag, Bielefeld, 2012, 167-82 (updated reprint of ‘The Oxford Quarto Dictionary’ below)

--'"Happy Copiousness"? OED's recording of the language of female authors of the eighteenth century', Review of English Studies (2012), 86-117. Available on Oxford Journals site here

--'Prescriptivism and descriptivism in the first, second and third editions of OED', English Today 26 (2010): 24-33

--'The Use of Literary Quotations in the OED’Review of English Studies 61 (2010), 93-125. Available on Oxford Journals site here

--‘The OED as “literary instrument”: its treatment past and present of the vocabulary of Virginia Woolf’, Notes & Queries (2009) 56, 430-44. Available on Oxford Journals site here

--'The Oxford English Dictionary's treatment of female-authored sources of the eighteenth century', in Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Wim wan der Wurff (eds.), Current Issues in Late Modern English, Peter Lang, Bern, 2009, 209-38

-- Bio-critical accounts of W. W. Skeat and R. W. Burchfield for Lexicon Grammaticorum, H. Stammerjohann (ed.), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin & New York, 2009, 231-2 & 1405-6

--'The Oxford Quarto Dictionary', Henry Sweet Society Bulletin 51 (2008), 25-40

--'The Oxford English Dictionary Supplements', in A. Cowie, ed, Oxford History of Lexicography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008, 260-78

--'Johnson, Webster, and the Oxford English Dictionary', in H. Momma and M. Matto, ed., Blackwell Companion to the History of the English Language, Blackwell, Oxford, 2008, 113-121

--'Pronouncing the P: Prescription or Description in English 19th- and 20th-century dictionaries?', Historiographia Linguistica 2/3 (2007), 257-80

--'Reporting Eighteenth-Century Vocabulary in the Oxford English Dictionary', in John Considine, ed., Words and Dictionaries from the British Isles, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007, 104-129

-'Eighteenth-Century Quotation Searches in the Oxford English Dictionary', in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX), ed. R. W. McConchie et al. Somerville, MA, Cascadilla, 2006, 41-50

--'Authority and Personality: Usage Labels in the Oxford English Dictionary, Transactions of the Philological Society 103 (2005), 261-301

--Women and the Archive: the representation of gender in the Dictionary of National Biography and the Oxford English Dictionary', article written jointly with Elizabeth Baigent and Vivienne Larminie, Archives (Journal of the British Records Association) xxx no. 113 (2005), 1-23

-- ‘Critical, Scientific and Eclectic Editing of Chaucer’, in Interstices: Studies in Middle English and Anglo-Latin Texts in Honour of A.G. Rigg, ed. Richard Firth Green and Linne R. Mooney (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 15-43

--‘OED Sources’, in Lynda Mugglestone, ed, Lexicography and the Oxford English Dictionary: Pioneers in the Untrodden Forest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 40-58; reprinted 2002


Other Information:

I have been a tutorial fellow at Hertford College since 1990, working half-time from 1998 to 2004 to look after my three children.

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