Amidst growing use of the Internet world-wide, publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) said the third edition may not be published in print hard copy form but only online.
The first edition of the multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary was fully published in 1928, and the second edition in 1989.
No decision has yet been made on the format of the third edition. It is likely to be more than a decade before the full edition is published, and a decision on format will be taken at that point, a spokesperson of the Oxford University Press said.
A team of 80 lexicographers is currently preparing the third edition of the OED, which is 28 per cent complete.
No final completion date is yet confirmed. The spokesperson added: "No decision has yet been made on the format of the third edition. It is likely to be more than a decade before the full edition is published, and a decision on format will be taken at that point."
Revised and new entries are published online every three months on OED Online at www.oed.com and a new version of the OED Online website will be launched in December 2010.
The Oxford University Press prepares the OED, and many of its other dictionaries, in a format-neutral form so that it is suitable for all types of publication.
The spokesperson said, "Dictionaries are and will remain a fundamental part of OUPs publishing. We publish 500 dictionaries, thesauruses, and language reference titles in more than 40 languages, and in a variety of print and electronic formats so that readers can access information in the most convenient way".
"Demand for online resources is growing but large numbers of people continue to purchase dictionaries in printed form and we have no plans to stop publishing print dictionaries," the spokesperson said.