Eric Partridge was born on the North Island of New Zealand. In 1907, the family moved to Australia, where Partridge studied first classics and then French and English at the University of Queensland. During this time, he also taught for three years before joining the Australian infantry during the World War I. Partridge returned to university between 1919 and 1921, when he received his BA. He then became Queensland Travelling Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford. He then taught briefly in a grammar school in Lancashire, and held lectureships at the Universities of Manchester and London. In 1923, he began work at the British Museum where he stayed for the next 50 years. In 1925 he married Agnes Dora Vye-Parminter, with whom he had a daughter. In 1927 he founded the small private Scholartis Press. During World War II, he served in the Army Education Corps and the RAF's correspondence department, before returning to his desk at the British Museum.