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

right (rīt)
adj. right·er, right·est
1. Conforming with or conformable to justice, law, or morality: do the right thing and confess.
2. In accordance with fact, reason, or truth; correct: the right answer.
3. Fitting, proper, or appropriate: It is not right to leave the party without saying goodbye.
4. Most favorable, desirable, or convenient: the right time to act.
5. In or into a satisfactory state or condition: put things right.
6. In good mental or physical health or order.
7. Intended to be worn or positioned facing outward or toward an observer: the right side of the dress; made sure that the right side of the fabric was visible.
a. Of, belonging to, located on, or being the side of the body to the south when the subject is facing east.
b. Of, relating to, directed toward, or located on the right side.
c. Located on the right side of a person facing downstream: the right bank of a river.
9. often Right Of or belonging to the political or intellectual right.
10. Mathematics
a. Formed by or in reference to a line or plane that is perpendicular to another line or plane.
b. Having the axis perpendicular to the base: right cone.
c. Having a right angle: a right triangle.
11. Straight; uncurved; direct: a right line.
12. Archaic Not spurious; genuine.
1. That which is just, moral, or proper.
a. The direction or position on the right side.
b. The right side.
c. The right hand.
d. A turn in the direction of the right hand or side.
3. often Right
a. The people and groups who advocate the adoption of conservative or reactionary measures, especially in government and politics. Also called right wing.
b. The opinion of those advocating such measures.
4. Sports A blow delivered by a boxer's right hand.
5. Baseball Right field.
a. A just or legal claim or title.
b. Something that is due to a person or governmental body by law, tradition, or nature.
c. Something, especially humane treatment, claimed to be due to animals by moral principle.
7. often rights
a. An existing stockholder's legally protected claim to purchase additional shares in a corporation ahead of those who are not currently stockholders, especially at a cost lower than market value.
b. The negotiable paper on which such an entitlement is indicated.
1. Toward or on the right.
2. In a straight line; directly: went right to school.
3. In the proper or desired manner; well: The jacket doesn't fit right.
4. Exactly; just: The accident happened right over there.
5. Immediately: called me right after dinner.
6. Completely; quite: The icy wind blew right through me.
7. According to law, morality, or justice.
8. Accurately; correctly: answered the question right.
9. Chiefly Southern US Considerably; very: They have a right nice place.
10. Used as an intensive: kept right on going.
11. Used in titles: The Right Reverend Jane Smith.
v. right·ed, right·ing, rights
1. To put in or restore to an upright or proper position: They righted their boat.
2. To put in order or set right; correct: measures designed to right generations of unfair labor practices.
3. To make reparation or amends for; redress: right a wrong.
To regain an upright or proper position.
by rights
In a just or proper manner; justly.
in (one's) own right
Through the force of one's own skills or qualifications.
right and left
From all directions or on every side: criticism coming right and left; questions raised from right and left.
right away/off
Immediately; at once; without delay.
right on
Slang Used as an exclamation of encouragement, support, or enthusiastic agreement.
to rights
In a satisfactory or orderly condition: set the place to rights.

[Middle English, from Old English riht; see reg- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots. N., sense 3, from the fact that conservatives sit on the right side of the legislative chamber in various assemblies .]

righter n.
rightness n.

Synonyms: right, privilege, prerogative, perquisite
These nouns apply to something, such as a power or possession, to which one has an established claim. Right refers to a legally, morally, or traditionally just claim: "An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment" (Hugo L. Black).
Privilege usually suggests an advantage or opportunity not enjoyed by everyone: Use of the company jet was a privilege reserved for the top executives. Prerogative denotes an exclusive right or privilege, as one based on custom, law, or office: It is my prerogative to change my mind.
A perquisite is a privilege accorded by virtue of one's employment, position, or rank: "The old newspapers and wax candle-ends from the drawing-room were the perquisites of the butler" (Elizabeth Langland).

Our Living Language Speakers of Standard English mainly restrict the use of adverbial right to modify adverbs of space or time, as in She's right over there or Do it right now! No such restriction applies in Southern vernacular speech, where right can be used to intensify the meaning of many adjectives and adverbs, as in He's right nice or You talk right fast. This broader use of right is attested as far back as the 1400s and is found in the works of Shakespeare and other great writers. Thus, what appears to be neglect of Standard English rules is actually the retention of a historical usage. · The use of right as an adverb indicating directness, completeness, or general intensity seems to be related to the use of right in a more concrete sense to refer to something that is perfectly straight or perpendicular to something else, as in right angle. A similar connection between concrete and metaphorical meaning lies behind the Southern adverbial usage of plumb, as in He fell plumb asleep as an indicator of completeness or totality.

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.