The Dictionary of Lost Words

The Dictionary of Lost Words Review

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it.

Title:The Dictionary of Lost Words
Edition Language:English

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    The Dictionary of Lost Words Reviews

  • MarilynW

    The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams  It never occurred to me all that went into compiling early dictionaries. Male scholars worked for decades to compile the words and definitions to go int...

  • Nilufer Ozmekik

    This is brilliantly well- researched, detailed, refreshing journey emphasizing the importance of words, empowerment and raising the voices of women during the World War I with layered, impeccably craf...

  • Keiran Rogers

    This is one of the best books I have ever published.A cracking plot about how the word Bondmaid was stolen from the Oxford English Dictionary, but also a book of gorgeous characters. This had me cryin...

  • Liz

    Lovely. Wonderful. Sublime. Delightful. Enchanting. Charming.This is one of those books whose premise just enthralled me. Esme’s father was one of the lexicographers working on the Oxford English Di...

  • Marianne

    “Some words stretched so far back in time that our modern understanding of them was nothing more than an echo of the original, a distortion. I used to think it was the other way around, that the mis...

  • Annette

    The first Oxford English Dictionary was created in 1901 only by men. Archives have proved that there were “female volunteers, assistants, spouses, none of whose contributions were acknowledged.” W...

  • Neale

    So many times the blurbs on the front and back cover of novels are nothing but hyperbole, the novel failing to live up to exaggerated expectations, but Tom Keneally’s blurb, “There will not be thi...

  • DeAnn

    3.5 lexicographer starsThis book is highly researched and opened up a new world to me with the origins of early dictionaries. I never thought much about how a dictionary was put together and updated. ...

  • Carolyn

    In her Author's Note, Pip Williams says that the idea for writing this book came from the non-fiction accounts of the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary, which all ignore the contribution of...

  • Gloria Arthur

    ⭐️3 Stars⭐️The Dictionary of Lost Words has had so much attention and the cover is quite stunning. I did find the first half of the book slow and a little boring, but because it had such good ...