Oxford Dictionary of English

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The Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd Edition revised), which is the "old" dictionary, added only a few new words to its predecessor.

All words used on Countdown are judged against the Oxford Dictionary of English, which has been through numerous versions during Countdown's lifespan. Each edition typically adds a number of new words, removes a few and clarifies the validity of some inflections (see Letters round rules).

Countdown has always favoured shorter editions over the various comprehensive tomes issued by Oxford, both for reasons of television convenience and in an attempt to reward skill rather than knowledge of unusual words. Nevertheless even the concise dictionary includes a huge number of words which are likely to be unfamiliar to any one person, and some of these have become popular favourites on the show, such as TANGELO, LEOTARD and FANTOD. Recently the most successful players, such as Conor Travers and Craig Beevers, have taken knowledge of the high-probability obscurities to new heights. Stewart Holden admits that his Grand Final win over Steve Graston hinged on his spotting the word WALDOES, which he had learnt only for its probability.

Susie Dent, the programme's longest-serving lexicographer, has frequently suggested that the words seen on Countdown contribute to decisions made about what to include in future editions. For example, after many years of being disallowed, RESOLE was finally introduced with the ODE 2nd Edition. Current popular requests include MOANIEST ☓ and CLOUTER ☓(however these have the anagrams AMNIOTES and COULTER respectively).

Originally the show began with the Concise Oxford Dictionary and continued to use updated editions of it until the disaster of the 10th Edition, in which many compound words were removed if their meanings were considered from their constituents. After a contestant lost a game after having ROADSIDE disallowed, it was realised that this sort of dictionary was not suitable for a word game. The next series switched to the New Oxford Dictionary of English, and the show has followed that line ever since.

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