Guide to Symbols and Labels

Symbols used in Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

Oxford3000 shows a word from the Oxford 3000™. Click on this icon to see a list of other words that are part of the Oxford 3000™.
key symbol shows the parts of the entry that are the most important.
Academic shows a word is from the Academic Word List. Click on this icon to see a list of other words that are part of the Academic Word List.
Usage notes shows a usage note within an entry. Click this icon to see a list of entries that have usage notes of the same type.
derivative symbol derivative(s) section of an entry. Derivatives do not have their own entry in the dictionary because they can be easily understood from the meaning of the word from which they are derived (the root word).
phrasal verb arrow in phrasal verbs, shows that the object may come either before or after the particle
cross reference arrow shows a cross reference to another related entry in the dictionary

Labels used in Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

The following labels are used with words that express a particular attitude or are appropriate in a particular situation.

approving expressions show that you feel approval or admiration, for example feisty, petite.

disapproving expressions show that you feel disapproval or contempt, for example blinkered, newfangled.

figurative language is used in a non-literal or metaphorical way, as in He didn't want to cast a shadow on (= spoil) their happiness.

formal expressions are usually only used in serious or official language and would not be appropriate in normal everyday conversation. Examples are admonish, besmirch.

informal expressions are used between friends or in a relaxed or unofficial situation. They are not appropriate for formal situations. Examples are bonkers, dodgy.

humorous expressions are intended to be funny, for example ankle-biter, lurgy.

ironic language uses words to mean the opposite of the meaning that they seem to have, as in You're a great help, I must say! (= no help at all).

literary language is used mainly in literature and imaginative writing, for example aflame, halcyon.

technical language is used by people who specialize in particular subject areas, for example accretion, adipose.

slang is very informal language, sometimes restricted to a particular group of people, for example people of the same age or those who have the same interests or do the same job. Examples are dingbat, dosh.

offensive expressions are used by some people to address or refer to people in a way that is very insulting, especially in connection with their race, religion, sex or disabilities. You should not use these words.

taboo expressions are likely to be thought by many people to be obscene or shocking. You should not use them.

The following labels show other restrictions on the use of words.

dialect describes expressions that are mainly used in particular regions of the British Isles, not including Ireland, Scotland or Wales, for example beck, nowt.

old-fashioned expressions are passing out of current use, for example balderdash, beanfeast.

old use describes expressions that are no longer in current use, for example ere, perchance.

saying describes a well-known fixed or traditional phrase, such as a proverb, that is used to make a comment, give advice, etc, for example actions speak louder than words.

shows a trademark of a manufacturing company, for example Band-Aid, Frisbee.