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Oxford Dictionaries Premium

From Countdown
Oxford Dictionaries Premium (ODP) differs to Concise Oxford Dictionary (COD), Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE) and Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

Oxford Dictionaries Premium (ODP), formerly referred to as Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO), is the source website dictionary currently used for adjudication of words offered by the contestants in the letters games on Countdown (and Apterous). Supplied by the Oxford University Press, ODP can only by accessed via an annual subscription or a library card. A free but less voluminous version of ODP, branded as Lexico, was available until 26 August 2022.

Dictionary Corner uses the premium.oxforddictionaries.com website on a laptop, which replaced the use of a print dictionary and pencam at the beginning of Series 70 in June 2014. The third and last edition of the print dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE), is still used in preference to ODP on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

Unlike the Oxford English Dictionary, which is a historical dictionary based on past usage, ODP is a 'living' dictionary based upon current English; hence why words such as 'soysage', 'sermuncle' and 'taverver' appear in the OED but not in the ODP, and are therefore not allowed on Countdown. However, some words are hard to find.

The lexicographer (currently Susie Dent) searches for a contestant's word under the 'British English' section of ODP to judge validity. Any independent word which appears in the dictionary without a capital letter, apostrophe or hyphen is valid, as well as standard inflections of nouns, verbs and adjectives. Abbreviations are not allowed, nor are American spellings; however, American words are allowed (e.g. DRAPER and FAUCET).

Although the 'US English' section is not used on Countdown, the 'British English' section does contain some entries from the 'US English' section, which are indicated by "Entry from US English Dictionary" underneath the phonetic spelling; an example of this is COQUI. These words are still allowed.

Unspecified redirections from searching words that link to other entries in the dictionary are not used for adjudication; when searches do redirect, only words specified on the page (and any standard inflections) will be accepted (e.g. gammier ☓ and raviolo ☓ are invalid despite redirecting to GAMMY and RAVIOLI respectively).

ODP is an ever-expanding and updating source, adding thousands of new entries each year. It contains a plethora of words, including inflections, variant spellings and loanwords borrowed from international English, including the United States, Canada, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, France and Italy. Minor adjustments to the dictionary, such as inclusions and removals of alternate spellings and definitions, may also be made in minor updates.

The Apterous website contains a dictionary of all possible words and is updated approximately quarterly, by including and excluding words which would or would not be considered allowable on Countdown based on the latest version of ODP.

Dan McColm, the first series champion to be crowned in the online dictionary era, came up with very modern words included in the dictionary such as WHATEV, and in his last game of his octochamp run, spotted that the conundrum BOBHOPTOM became PHOTOBOMB, a word that trended highly in 2014. Elliott Mellor, Luke Johnson-Davies and Sam Cappleman-Lynes have also been noted for finding obscure ODP words which could otherwise not be found in the ODE paper dictionary, nor in other dictionaries (both print and online).

A rough guide to word validity

Any word declared by a contestant which has its own uncapitalised entry in bold in ODP are accepted. Subentries listed in bold underneath the headword are also accepted; these include variant spellings, plural forms of nouns, comparative and superlative forms of adjectives, and past/present tenses and participles of verbs. The declared word must not be an abbreviation nor a proper noun.

The following entries are not allowed:

  • hyphenated words (e.g. blue-wing ☓)
  • spaced words (e.g. gold miner ☓)
  • words requiring an apostrophe (e.g. wouldn't ☓)
  • any word that exists only with an initial capital letter (e.g. Kevlar ☓)
  • any word that appears only in combination (e.g. swatter ☓ is invalid as it only appears in 'fly swatter')

Spellings labelled US English are identified as American spellings, and these words and inflections are not allowed (e.g. color ☓, moldier ☓). However, spellings labelled mainly US English are allowed, as 'mainly' implies it can be found in the UK (e.g. DONUT). Spellings labelled North American are also allowed as they are also used in Canada and other countries in North America (e.g. LUPINES).

Loanwords from worldwide English which have their own entry in ODP are allowed. Words from the US and North America are also allowed (e.g. FAUCET).

Accented words are allowed (e.g. BRULEE, written as 'brûlée' in the dictionary).

Singular forms of plural nouns are invalid (e.g. CRUDITES is valid, but not crudite ☓). Inflected forms of plurals that are the same as the singular are also invalid (e.g. SALMON is valid, but not salmons ☓).

Plural forms of entries which are only labelled [AS MODIFIER] in bold are invalid (e.g. aminos ☓). Note that the juxtapositioning of the [AS MODIFIER] label is important here: if [AS MODIFIER] is adjacent to an example sentence, the plural is still valid, as the word can be independent or in combination (e.g. CHESNUTS, or 'chestnut stallions'). Entries labelled [WITH MODIFIER] instead of [AS…] may also take the plural (e.g. COUNTIAN, as in 'Sussex countians').

Abbreviations defined as "nouns" are omitted (e.g. psia ☓ is given as a noun, but is defined as 'Pounds per square inch absolute').

Italicised text underneath the definitions and sentences (e.g. Lewisia rediviva) is ignored. Example sentences are also ignored for adjudication, although sentences with [COUNT NOUN] senses are considered reliable.

Missing subentries

Not all headwords in ODP specify subentries, but any sensible and correctly-spelled inflections of headwords (see letters round rules) would be accepted (e.g. ESCAPES, ESCAPED and ESCAPING; GREATER and GREATEST). Not all valid inflections may direct to the relevant root word in the dictionary, but these are usually judged based on common usage in British English.


For -MAN words specifically: the accepted plural of any gender-related noun ending in suffixes -MAN and -WOMAN would be -MEN and -WOMEN respectively (e.g. ORRAMAN has no specified plurals but ORRAMEN is assumed over orramans ☓); if it is not gender-related according to the definition, it would be -MANS (e.g. CAYMANS is assumed over caymen ☓).

NOTE: SANDMAN has no plural, because it's the sandman, so sandmans ☓ and sandmen ☓ are invalid.

For loanwords in English which are borrowed from a foreign language, Countdown (and Apterous) tries its best to accept any correct plurals where possible (there may be more than one plural). Hence, e.g., GENESES is assumed the plural of GENESIS, rather than genesises ☓, and HEDERS and HEDARIM are assumed the plurals of HEDER (a variant spelling of CHEDER).

For mass nouns: many of these may not take a plural (e.g. sedations ☓). If a word labelled as a [MASS NOUN] also has a [COUNT NOUN] label, which implies the noun has a countable sense, the plural would be accepted (e.g. EXERTIONS is valid as the singular has a count noun sense in ODP).

Not all mass nouns have specified count noun senses, but leeway may be given to accept plurals, based on their definitions and usage. Since 2019, the following plurals have been accepted:

Nounal entries in ODP that are defined as alternative terms of uncountable mass nouns are also assumed not to take a plural (e.g. EBONITE is another term for VULCANITE, so ebonites ☓ is invalid).


If an adjective has two syllables or more, the inflected comparative and superlative forms must be specified – either underneath the headword or in a separate page – to be allowed (e.g. the existence of SHOUTY, which has two syllables, does not mean shoutier ☓ nor shoutiest ☓ are valid as these are not specified).

If a comparable adjective has one syllable, inflected comparative and superlative forms which are standard and sensible need not be specified to be allowed (e.g. LOUCHE has no subentries, but one can be the LOUCHER than the next person, or the LOUCHEST person). Other examples are COLDER, COLDEST, DARKER and DARKEST.

Note: the standard comparative and superlative of GOOD are BETTER and BEST, rather than gooder ☓ and goodest ☓. Adjectives ending with -ED, with no specified -EDER and -EDEST inflections, are also assumed exempt from this rule; hence why paineder ☓ and painedest ☓ are not allowed (the standard inflections are 'more pained' and 'most pained').


If a verb does not specify inflections, any sensible and correctly-spelled past and present tenses or participles would be accepted (e.g. EVADE has no subentries but EVADED and EVADING are valid, whereas evadeing ☓ is not).

If there are no specified inflections of verbs with a prefix in front (including OUT-, RE- etc.), then it can be assumed to take the same specified inflections as the corresponding root verb, providing the definitions match (e.g. REFOOT has no specified inflections but REFOOTED and REFOOTING are valid). If pasts and past participles are specified, only those will be ruled valid (e.g. the existence of SHINED does not mean outshined ☓ is valid, because OUTSHONE is the specified past and past participle of OUTSHINE).

-ISE or -IZE?

The -IZE spelling of verbs ending with -ISE is the Oxford spelling – it is not an Americanism – so these would typically be the spelled headword in ODP, and therefore allowed. Many of these word's pages also list -ISE as the British spelling, but these (and inflections) need not be specified to be allowed (e.g. MINORISED is valid as an alternative spelling of an inflected form of MINORIZE). The usage of -IZE spellings in British English date as far back as the 16th century, and remain in visible use to this day.

Note: this rule does not apply vice versa; if the headword ends in -ISE, the -IZE spelling is invalid (e.g. advize ☓, advertize ☓ and surprize ☓ are not valid).

Additionally, Oxford Spelling uses -YSE in favour of the American spelling -yze ☓, so ANALYSE would be given valid instead of analyze ☓.

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