To look up an entry in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, use the search window above. For best results, after typing in the word, click on the “Search” button instead of using the “enter” key.

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you type them in the search bar. For best results with compound words, place a quotation mark before the compound word in the search window.

guide to the dictionary



The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. Annual surveys have gauged the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists



The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.



The articles in our blog examine new words, revised definitions, interesting images from the fifth edition, discussions of usage, and more.


See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!



Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at

de·ceive (dĭ-sēv)
v. de·ceived, de·ceiv·ing, de·ceives
1. To cause to believe what is not true; mislead.
2. Archaic To catch by guile; ensnare.
1. To practice deceit.
2. To give a false impression: appearances can deceive.

[Middle English deceiven, from Old French deceveir, from Vulgar Latin *dēcipēre, from Latin dēcipere, to ensnare, deceive : dē-, de- + capere, to seize; see kap- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

de·ceiva·ble adj.
de·ceiver n.
de·ceiving·ly adv.

Synonyms: deceive, mislead, delude, dupe, hoodwink, bamboozle
These verbs mean to cause someone to believe something untrue, usually with an ulterior motive in mind. Deceive, the most general, stresses the deliberate misrepresentation of what one knows to be true: "We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know, because they have never deceived us" (Samuel Johnson).
To mislead is to direct toward a wrong conclusion, as by the use of half-truths or obfuscation; it is often but not always intentional: "Writing for young people may tempt authors to oversimplify technical information, which may mislead or confuse the reader" (Margaret Bush).
Delude can imply a deception so thorough as to foster belief that is not merely misplaced but often irrational; it may also imply a strong dose of wishful thinking: "I knew, suddenly, in a thunderbolt of awareness, that I had been deluding myself for years, and had madly fancied myself a writer, when I was nothing of the sort" (Margaret Drabble).
To dupe is to play upon another's susceptibilities or naiveté: The shoppers were duped by false advertising. Hoodwink and the informal bamboozle refer to deception by hoaxing, trickery, or artful persuasion: "Worst of all ... the orchestra manager ... has somehow hoodwinked me with his courtly southern manner into signing another multiyear contract" (Arnold Steinhardt)."Perhaps if I wanted to be understood or to understand I would bamboozle myself into belief, but I am a reporter" (Graham Greene).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.