use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

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

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

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

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

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

scroll-icon

THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY BLOG

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

100-words-icon

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

Find out more!

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

eld·er 1 (ĕldər)
Share:
adj.
1. Greater than another in age or seniority.
2. Archaic Superior to another or others, as in rank.
n.
1. An older person.
2. An older, influential member of a family, tribe, or community.
3. One of the governing officers of a church, often having pastoral or teaching functions.
4. Mormon Church A member of the higher order of priesthood.

[Middle English eldre, from Old English eldra; see al-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

elder·ship n.

Usage Note: In comparisons between two persons, the adjective elder is simply a more formal term for "older" and has no implication of advanced age: My elder sibling is fourteen; my younger is nine. In other contexts it does denote relatively old age, but with the added component of respect for a person's position or achievement: an elder statesman; an elder member of the court. If the simple fact of advanced or relatively advanced age is the point, older or elderly are usually more appropriate than elder: a survey of older Americans; an elderly waiter. · As with the adjective, the noun elder can be used comparatively without implying old age: He is my elder by three years. It can also refer to an office in certain churches or, more broadly, to a position of authority or respect conferred by age and experience: an elder in the Presbyterian Church; a tribal elder. The use of elder in the sense of "an elderly person" is uncommon in contemporary English, though it is widely used as an attributive in such phrases as elder care (or eldercare) and elder services. See Usage Note at old.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 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.

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.