Jaguar petitions Oxford English Dictionary to change the definition of ‘car’ – here’s why

Jaguar petitions Oxford English Dictionary to change the definition of ‘car’ – here’s why
Jaguar petitions Oxford English Dictionary to change the definition of ‘car’ – here’s why

British car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is spearheading a campaign for the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries to change their official definitions of the word ‘car’, branding the current definition ‘outdated’.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a ‘car’ in its online dictionary 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.” 

Whereas the current definition of a ‘car’ on Oxford,  a collection of dictionary websites produced by Oxford University Press, the publishing house of the University of Oxford, is: “A road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.”

The Cambridge English Dictionary website, run by Cambridge University Press has a more inclusive definition: “a road vehicle with an engine, four wheels, and seats for a small number of people”.

Formal application

To remedy the situation, Jaguar has submitted a formal application to the Oxford English Dictionary and to have the definitions updated to include additional powertrains, including electric vehicles.

Jaguar Land Rover has an interest in driving the change, having launched their first all-electric vehicle – the I-Pace – last year.

Review: Jaguar I-Pace: setting the pace for premium rivals

The Jaguar I-Pace
Jaguar Land Rover launched the Jaguar I-Pace in 2018

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or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated.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 its online classification to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines towards more sustainable powertrains.”

While both the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries review the application, Jaguar is encouraging people to get behind the campaign by asking how the word ‘car’ should be defined. Contact Jaguar on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #RedefineTheCar with your thoughts.

Electric vehicle sales soaring

The latest figures from the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), published in July 2019, saw electric vehicle registrations almost triple as the UK new car market declined overall by  just over four per cent.

The SMMT point to increasing diversity in the UK car market with over 80 models (of 350 available at the time of writing) powered by alternatively fuelled engines, 21 of them fully electric.

SMMT forecasts this ongoing investment into new, ever more advanced powertrain technology will result in battery electric vehicles doubling their market share next year, with 51,000 registrations in 2020.

Read more: A buyers’ guide to hybrids and electric vehicles

Electric cars could save drivers £41,000 in their lifetime


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