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

pre·dic·a·ment (prĭ-dĭkə-mənt)
1. A situation, especially an unpleasant, troublesome, or trying one, from which extrication is difficult.
2. Logic One of the basic states or classifications described by Aristotle into which all things can be placed; a category.

[Middle English, class, category, from Old French, from Late Latin praedicāmentum (translation of Greek katēgoriā, from katēgoreuein, to speak against, signify, predicate), from Latin praedicāre, to proclaim publicly, predicate; see PREACH.]

pre·dica·mental (-mĕntl) adj.
pre·dica·mental·ly adv.

Synonyms: predicament, plight1, quandary, jam1, fix, pickle
These nouns refer to a difficult situation that has no readily discernible resolution or way out. A predicament is a problematic situation about which one does not know what to do: "The wrenching predicament for conservation biologists is that endangered species reach the point of no return before their numbers fall to zero" (Cynthia Mills).
A plight is a bad or unfortunate situation: "All he desires is to escape from his plight" (J.R.R. Tolkien).
A quandary is a state of perplexity, especially about what course of action to take: "Having captured our men, we were in a quandary how to keep them" (Theodore Roosevelt).
The words jam and fix are more informal and refer to a predicament from which escape is difficult: "The only way to be certain he will not get into some sort of a jam is to put a chain around his neck and lead him around like a performing bear" (Jack Dempsey)."Here was one murder defendant ... who did not like to joke about the fix he was in" (Robert Traver).
Another informal term, a pickle is a disagreeable, embarrassing, or troublesome predicament: "I could see no way out of the pickle I was in" (Robert Louis Stevenson).

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.