“Don’t Use This Word”

Racist Hate Speech in Online English Dictionaries for Learners


  • Silvia Pettini




online English lexicography, lerner's dictionary, hate speech, ethnic slur, ethnophaulism


This paper presents the preliminary findings of a wider research project which aims at exploring the relationship between racist hate speech and online English lexicography for learners. In particular, this pilot study focuses on the treatment of “ethnophaulisms” (Roback 1944), most commonly referred to as ethnic slurs, in the online editions of three major British English dictionaries for advanced learners: the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners and the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. The rationale behind this paper lies in the connection between two phenomena of the present cultural moment and digital age: the impact of the Internet on dictionary consulting (Jackson 2017; Béjoint 2016) and the alarming increase of online racism and xenophobia at the global level (see Gagliardone et al. 2015). Accordingly, the research objective is to analyse whether and how the three dictionaries selected include, label, define or, more generally, present learners with data reflecting the taboo and offensive nature of these instances of racist hate speech.


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