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The Dictionary of Lost Words: The International Bestseller

The Dictionary of Lost Words: The International Bestseller by Pip Williams

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By Pip Williams

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

Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.

Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutter to the floor unclaimed.

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. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.


22 Jun 2021

This deserves the plaudits it has received. A novel about the English language and women as reflected through the real life compilation of The Oxford English Dictionary as seen through the fictional eyes of Esme. The characters, both real and imaginary, are mostly kind and sympathetic but Esme discovers that there are many words being excluded from the OED and many relate to women and their lot in life. Inciteful, compassionate and quite wonderful.

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