Newsflash: Lexico

I just found this announcement at Lexico:

Thank you for visiting, but we do have some important news. Starting August 26, we will be closing the website and redirecting it to

Don’t fear! has all the 1) definitions, 2) synonyms, and 3) grammar and writing tips you need—and a whole lot more!

My first reaction is that it is bad news as is an American site stuffed full of American definitions and usage. I’ve nothing against it in itself but I trust the Oxford Dictionaries to reflect primarily English usage and Lexico has continued to do this. Once it’s all merged together with the existing how are we going to distinguish what’s what? Can anyone allay my fears?

I see this as important because The Oxford Dictionary of English currently available online as Lexico is one of the two principle sources of of words, meanings  and expressions used by setters of the daily Times puzzles.


22 comments on “Newsflash: Lexico”

  1. I agree, Jack. I see this as bad news. Not only does (and the associated use American definitions and usages, it also has American spellings.
    But, what to do?

  2. Yes, I agree, it is bad news for the reasons already stated. Jack, you mention Lexico being one of two principal sources of reference; I am not sure what the other online source is but, beyond that, the only alternative that comes to mind is printed matter – a seriously retrograde step, in my opinion.

    1. The other source is Collins Dictionary which is available at however they also carry Cobuild entries (principally intended for overseas English speakers, I understand) which some here do not trust for crossword definitions and meanings. But they do at least separate the entries (and the American ones) so that it’s clear what you are looking at.

      Perhaps will do the same with the material they import from Lexico, but they strike me (possibly wrongly) as a less academically-minded source so I have doubts that they will take the trouble.

      1. COBUILD is intended for learners of English as a foreign language. The definitions are, rightly, written in a simplified English, and tend to gloss over finer distinctions that the regular Collins dictionaries would make.

  3. Both the Times and Sunday Times crossword use Collins English Dictionary as one main reference, and this remains available as the content under the “English:” tabs at

    The alternative reference used for Times crosswords is the Concise Oxford, and it appears that apart from minor use for the Listener crossword, the Sunday Times crossword is the only one here that uses the Oxford Dictionary of English.

    In practical terms, my honest guess is that the number of times this actually matters rarely exceeds one clue or answer in an ST (or Times) crossword. Aside from the possibility of using a print version, there are iPad (and I believe, Android) apps available for both the Oxford Dictionaries, as well as Collins.

    I have wondered about the economics of the free dictionaries online — the early pages of the print editions of Collins and Oxford dictionaries show that there are a lot of people involved in producing them.

    1. Thanks for this, Peter. I see I was confused as I had understood from somewhere that the Concise Oxford had been replaced by the ODE by The Times generally and it wasn’t limited to the ST. As you say though, the distinction is unlikely to matter very often.

    2. Where does Chambers fit into Times and ST crosswords? I like the apps and it is often uncannily accurate when trying to find weird words in Mephisto.

      1. My understanding is that Chambers is the principal source for the Mephisto puzzle. Occasionally other Times puzzles will have a word or meaning that’s only to be found in Chambers but I suspect it’s possibly an oversight when that happens.

      2. When barred grid crosswords started, in the early 1930s, Chambers was one of the most comprehensive single-volume English dictionaries available, and therefore an obvious reference for those puzzles. But its inclusion of literary, regional, historic and otherwise obscure words means that it’s much less suitable as a reference for puzzles which people were traditionally expected to solve in places where no dictionary was available. This (pre-internet) reason is also why definitions in puzzles like Mephisto are often identical or very close to Chambers content – it avoided any need for them to consult some other source, which may have meant a trip to their local reference library.

        (“One of” is cautious language, as there may have been dictionaries that were alternatives to Chambers long ago but are no longer published. My understanding is that Collins first appeared around 1980, and the Concise Oxford was the biggest one-volume Oxford dictionary until ODE was first published in 1996.)

        1. Fascinating. So is Chambers sufficient but not necessary for solving most normal Times and Sunday Times puzzles?

  4. Many public libraries in the UK (and around the world) give free, online, access to the full OED with membership and library card.

  5. I forget the exact details but I believe that Lexico was from the beginning a combination of the resources of ODO, which was the online version of the ODE, and The original combination was justified on the basis of similar objectives and methodologies: both ODO/ODE and were explicitly international interpretations of the English language, for example.
    So it’s possible that this is just a case of a change of URL, which would be logical. is a rather better name for a dictionary website than Lexico!

    1. “About …” info on the Lexico site says: “Lexico is powered by Oxford’s free English and Spanish dictionaries”. I think this means that the US English is from an Oxford D of American English, as it was on the pre-Lexico site which was more clearly Oxford. Whether that dictionary is also used at, I don’t know. It’s possible that things at will change on or after the 26th, but if that was happening, I suspect the announcement would have said so. At present, it just has one dictionary, which an obvious test confirms is American —

      Definition of colour
      noun, adjective, verb (used with or without object) Chiefly British.

      1. It also confirms that ‘ is a new collaboration between and Oxford University Press (OUP)’. However does give British definitions and just looking up a couple of words shows that both the British and US definitions differ substantially between and Lexico. So it does actually look as if Oxford may be giving up the ghost, which would indeed be a great shame. Edit: actually I see that Lexico is owned by, which suggests it’s the US parent that has decided to discontinue the separate dictionary. They appear to have pulled off the trick of taking over a rival and then shutting it down.

  6. I have the impression that the discussion so far concerns free dictionaries. However, for people like setters who need more than occasional lookups there are very reasonable (under £17 a year) subscriptions to the Oxford Dictionaries Premium service, which includes not only British and American English dictionaries, but about 10 other languages as well. I began subscribing when my Oxford Spanish dictionary became too heavy to carry around (in print it is enormous). I am not sure how the extent of the content compares with other offerings or the free dictionaries, but although this is not the unabridged OED, it is fairly comprehensive and I can hardly imagine that it would be less complete than the free dictionaries. And you may be able to access it for free if you can log in to an institutional subscription (libraries and the like). Because I do subscribe to this service for the foreign languages in it, I have never actually been tempted to use the free dictionaries as crossword references.

  7. Today is the first day of taking over from Lexico. I see that thhere is a tab you can click on, just about at the top of the page which says “British”. I just used it for ‘goat’.

  8. It seems that I was unduly pessimistic. The site now has a “British” option which you can use after looking up a word like “rhubarb”, to see what seems to be the ODE content including the “word used by actors” meaning. If you look up something that’s only in British English, like “butcher’s” or “Eccles cake”, the British meaning is shown straightaway.

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