Professor Charlotte Brewer

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).

Graduate Teaching and Supervision

MSt course on English Language


Old and Middle English; the English Language

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

Hertford College website


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


--"'That reliance on the ordinary': Jane Austen and the Oxford English Dictionary", in Review of English Studies 66 (2015), 744-65. Selected as Editors' choice for free online access and available here

--'Metalanguage and Labelling in English Dictionaries', in The Oxford Handbook of Lexicography, ed. Philip Durkin, Oxford University Press, 2015, chapter 30, 488-500

--‘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 (2013), 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

--'"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