Dr Stephen Hughes, from the University of Technology in Brisbane, noticed that the error in the dictionary during research for an article for science teachers.

The OED definition of the word erroneously states that atmospheric pressure makes siphons work, when in fact it is the force of gravity.

Siphons draw fluid from a higher location to a lower one and are often used to remove liquid from containers, such as petrol tanks, that are hard to empty otherwise.

Dr Hughes said he was stunned when he realised that the dictionary had got the definition wrong.

"It is gravity that moves the fluid in a siphon, with the water in the longer downward arm pulling the water up the shorter arm," Dr Hughes said. ....