Radcliffe Camera Bodleian Library Oxford University

Oxford and Cambridge Universities

Drawings and watercolours by Simon Fieldhouse of Oxford and Cambridge University

Oxbridge is a portmanteau (blend word) of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The term is used to refer to them collectively in contrast to other British universities and more broadly to describe characteristics reminiscent of them, often with implications of superior social or intellectual status.

Although both universities were founded more than eight centuries ago, the term Oxbridge is relatively recent. In William Thackeray’s novel Pendennis, published in 1849, the main character attends the fictional Boniface College, Oxbridge. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this is the first recorded instance of the word. Virginia Woolf used it, citing Thackeray, in her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own. By 1957 the term was used in the Times Educational Supplement[2][3] and in Universities Quarterly by 1958.

When expanded, the universities are almost always referred to as “Oxford and Cambridge”, the order in which they were founded. A notable exception is Japan’s Cambridge and Oxford Society, probably arising from the fact that the Cambridge Club was founded there first, and also had more members than its Oxford counterpart when they amalgamated in 1905.