Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.



The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists



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



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



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.


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

Find out more!



Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at

e·qual (ēkwəl)
1. Having the same quantity, measure, or value as another.
2. Mathematics Being the same or identical to in value.
a. Having the same privileges, status, or rights: citizens equal before the law.
b. Being the same for all members of a group: gave every player an equal chance to win.
a. Having the requisite qualities, such as strength or ability, for a task or situation: "Elizabeth found herself quite equal to the scene" (Jane Austen).
b. Similar to or the same as another, as in ability: As the playoffs began, the teams were considered roughly equal.
One that is equal to another: These two models are equals in computing power.
tr.v. e·qualed, e·qual·ing, e·quals or e·qualled or e·qual·ling
1. To be equal to, especially in value.
2. To do, make, or produce something equal to: equaled the world record in the mile run.

[Middle English, from Latin aequālis, from aequus, even, level.]

equal·ly adv.

Usage Note: It has been argued that equal is an absolute termtwo quantities either are or are not equaland hence cannot be qualified as to degree. Therefore one cannot logically speak of a more equal allocation of resources among the departments. But this usage is fairly common, and was acceptable to 71 percent of the Usage Panel as far back as 1967. Objections to the more equal construction assume that the mathematical notion of equality is appropriate to the description of a world where the equality of two quantities is often an approximate matter, and where statements of equality are always relative to an implicit standard of tolerance. In The two boards are of equal length, we assume that the equality is reckoned to some order of approximation determined by the context; if we did not, we would be required always to use nearly equal when speaking of the dimensions of physical objects. What is more, we often speak of the equality of things that cannot be measured quantitatively, as in The college draft was introduced in an effort to make the teams in the National Football League as equal as possible, or The candidates for the job should all be given equal consideration. In such cases, equality is naturally a gradient notion and can be modified in degree. This much is evident from the existence of the word unequal, for the prefix un- attaches only to gradient adjectives. We say unmanly but not unmale; and the word uneven can be applied to a surface (whose evenness may be a matter of degree) but not to a number (whose evenness is an either/or affair). · The adverb equally is often regarded as redundant when used in combination with as, as in Experience is equally as valuable as theory or Aptitude is essential; but equally as important is the desire to learn. In our 2015 ballot, the example sentences above were deemed unacceptable by 64 percent and 53 percent of the Usage Panel respectively. Even among those Panelists who rated the sentences as acceptable, there were several who commented that it would be preferable to avoid the redundancy for stylistic reasons. Fortunately, one can easily streamline sentences such as these, as by deleting equally from the first example and as from the second. See Usage Notes at absolute, as1, center, perfect, unique.

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

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.