Words and Word Meanings

Module code: EN7113

Module co-ordinator: Professor Julie Coleman

From Anglo-Saxon glossaries of Latin terms to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, word-lists provide a fascinating insight into the cultures and individuals that produce and use them. Growing out of bilingual word-lists, the English dictionary began by explaining difficult or obscure words. By the eighteenth century, dictionary-makers were trying to cover the entire English vocabulary and were soon using literary texts to demonstrate how words ought to be used. Modern dictionaries concentrate instead on how words are actually used, and often accumulate massive databases of written and spoken English on which to base their word-lists and definitions. This module will look at the origins of English vocabulary. Where do words come from? How and why do they change in meaning?

By the end of this module, you will...

  • Be equipped with the skills needed to analyse and discuss the vocabulary of English and its dictionaries
  • Be a more critical user of dictionaries


  • One 4,000 word essay on a topic relating to the course