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

ball 1 (bôl)
Share:
n.
1.
a. A spherical object or entity: a steel ball.
b. A spherical or almost spherical body: a ball of flame.
2. Sports
a. Any of various movable and round or oblong objects used in various athletic activities and games.
b. Such an object moving, thrown, hit, or kicked in a particular manner: a low ball; a fair ball.
c. A game, especially baseball or basketball, played with such an object.
d. A pitched baseball that does not pass through the strike zone and is not swung at by the batter.
3.
a. A solid spherical or pointed projectile, such as one shot from a cannon.
b. Projectiles of this kind considered as a group.
4. A rounded part or protuberance, especially of the body: the ball of the foot.
5. Vulgar Slang
a. A testicle.
b. balls Courage, especially when reckless.
c. balls Great presumptuousness.
v. balled, ball·ing, balls
v.tr.
1. To form into a ball.
2. Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse with.
v.intr.
1. To become formed into a ball.
2. Vulgar Slang To have sexual intercourse.
Phrasal Verb:
ball up
To confuse; bungle.
Idioms:
have (someone) by the balls Vulgar Slang
To have control over someone; have someone at one's mercy.
on the ball Informal
1. Alert, competent, or efficient: a teacher who is really on the ball.
2. Relating to qualities, such as competence, skill, or knowledge, that are necessary for success: a manager who has a lot on the ball; a student who has nothing on the ball.

[Middle English bal, probably from Old English *beall; see bhel-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
ball 2 (bôl)
Share:
n.
1. A formal gathering for social dancing.
2. Informal An extremely enjoyable time or experience: We had a ball during our vacation.

[French bal, from Old French, from baller, to dance, from Late Latin ballāre, from Greek ballizein; see gwelə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
Ball, Lucille Désirée 1911-1989.
Share:
American actress best known as the star of the popular situation comedy I Love Lucy (1951-1957).
(click for a larger image)
Lucille Ball

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
Ball (bôl), John Known as "the Mad Priest." Died 1381.
Share:
English cleric and social agitator who was executed for his role in the Peasants' Revolt (1381).

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.