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

hack·er 1 (hăkər)
Share:
n.
Informal
1.
a. One who is proficient at using or programming a computer; a computer buff.
b. One who uses programming skills to gain illegal access to a computer network or file.
2. One who demonstrates poor or mediocre ability, especially in a sport: a weekend tennis hacker.

[Perhaps from hacker, amateurish or inept golfer or tennis player (possibly from HACK1), or perhaps from hack, practical joke, clever scheme (from dialectal hack, to embarrass, confuse, play a trick on).]

Word History: Computer programmers started using the word hacker in the 1960s as a positive term for a person of skillful programming ability. The usage probably derives from hack meaning "to chop," or from hacker, "an amateurish player, as at golf." As time went on, hacker became less positive, however. Already in the 1960s, engineering students at such universities as Cal Tech used the related noun hack to mean "an ingenious prank." Among the pranks that some computer programmers would engage in, of course, were break-ins into other computer systems. As such break-ins attracted national attention, the media seized upon the word hacker as the label for the perpetrators. Many programmers object to this usage, preferring to use the term cracker for a person who acts with malicious intent.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
hack·er 2 (hăkər)
Share:
n.
See hackie.

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.