The Jane Austen Word List

One of the things that’s tricky about writing historical fiction like Shades of Milk and Honey is getting the vocabulary right. There are a lot of words which are obviously anachronisms but there others which aren’t. Short of looking up every word in a novel, there’s no way to really know if a seemingly innocuous word like “hello” exists yet.

So here’s my planfor Glamour in Glass.

I’ve created a list of all the words that are in the collected works of Jane Austen to use for my spellcheck dictionary. It will flag any word that she didn’t use and I can then look those up to see if it was in use in 1815.  It also includes some of Miss Austen’s specific spellings like “shew” and “chuse.”

It won’t be perfect. For instance it won’t flag words whose meanings have changed, like “check” or “staid” but it will be an improvement.

For the curious, there are 14,793 words on the list.

My problem right now is that I’ve tried a couple of different sets of instructions to create a dictionary for OpenOffice and have been unsuccessful. I need help. So… Is there anyone out there that can help me with the conversion?

Here is the Jane Austen Word List as a .txt. file.

This is my attempt at making the Jane Austen dictionary extension for OpenOffice. It will go through installation, but not show up as a dictionary.

EDITED TO ADD January 19, 2013: I did wind up getting this working and it was a matter of setting my mine language as something other than English, then using the Jane Austen dictionary as the custom spellcheck dictionary for that language. I chose French for my purposes.

If you are curious about the words that I wound up cutting from Glamour in Glass, I’ve got a list of them.

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10 thoughts on “The Jane Austen Word List”

  1. So how did you create this document? Did you go through all the the books writing the list a word at a time? How long did that take? Was it fun or tedious? Sounds like a cool project.

  2. I found a different set of instructions here:

    It includes a link to a macro for importing text word lists into custom dictionaries. I tried it with your list but it only imported the first 2000 words. A later post in the thread suggested breaking the list into 2000 word chunks and importing them into multiple dictionaries.

  3. Mary-

    I think I have a solution for you. I used the instructions here:

    I now have a dictionary called jane.oxt that includes all of your words.

    There is a catch, however. If you just make dictionary to supplement the built-in English dictionary, OpenOffice will still think modern words are good. Instead, you need to build your dictionary for some language that OpenOffice can handle, but which doesn’t have an existing dictionary. If you do this, only your words are recognized as good. I chose Esperanto. 🙂

    To use it, you install it like any dictionary (opening the file in openoffice seems to work), and then set the language of “all text” in your document to Esperanto. Suddenly, things like “abdys” are spelled right, but “internet” and “tomography” are not. Note that I only tested this in NeoOffice on my mac.

    You can get the dictionary at

    Hope this helps. It was a fun challenge.


    1. John: I used the technique described here: to add the dictionary “jane.oxt” to my Mac for use with Scrivener. Thanks for posting it!

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