Jaguar calls for Oxford English Dictionary to change its online definition of a car

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British manufacturer argues that electric vehicles don’t qualify because of the terminology used

Jaguar is urging the Oxford English Dictionary to update its online definition of a car because it doesn’t take into account electric vehicles.

The OED, published by the Oxford University Press (OUP), defines a car as “a road vehicle powered by a motor (usually an internal combustion engine) designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels, esp. for private, commercial, or leisure use”.

Meanwhile, Lexico, formerly, which is a collection of dictionary websites powered by the OUP, defines a car as “a road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people”.


Jaguar, which makes the award-winning all-electric I-PACE, has submitted a formal application to have the definitions updated to include alternatively fuelled vehicles, such as EVs.

Its zero-emission SUV was named 2019 World Car of the Year at the New York Motor Show.

David Browne, head of Jaguar Land Rover’s naming committee, said: “A lot of time and thought is put into the name of any new vehicle or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated.


“We are therefore inviting the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries to update their online classifications to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines towards more sustainable powertrains.”

A spokesperson for the Oxford University Press told the PA news agency: “We appreciate the interest and commitment that Jaguar have shown to accurately recording the English language. Our lexicographers value suggestions such as these.

“The Oxford Dictionaries team work to reflect, rather than dictate, the way in which words are used and defined. All of our dictionaries are based on a solid body of evidence which comes from a huge range of sources and is gathered over a sustained period of time. Suggestions and feedback are a valuable part of this but form just one aspect of the work that goes into maintaining our dictionaries.”

The OED describes itself as “the accepted authority on the English language”. It features 600,000 words and 3.5 million quotations that chart the evolution of the English language over the past 1,000 years.

Other dictionaries have slightly differing definitions for the word “car”. For example, Cambridge Dictionary says a car is “a road vehicle with an engine, four wheels, and seats for a small number of people”, while Collins defines it as “a motor vehicle with room for a small number of passengers”.

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