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

dive 1 (dīv)
v. dived or dove (dōv), dived, div·ing, dives
a. To plunge, especially headfirst, into water.
b. To execute a dive in athletic competition.
c. To participate in the sport of competitive diving.
a. To go toward the bottom of a body of water: We dove down to check the anchor.
b. To engage in the sport of scuba diving.
c. To submerge under power. Used of a submarine.
a. To fall head down through the air.
b. To descend nose down at an acceleration usually exceeding that of free fall. Used of an airplane.
c. To engage in the sport of skydiving.
4. To drop sharply and rapidly; plummet: Stock prices dove 100 points in a single day of trading.
a. To rush headlong and vanish into something: The fugitive dove into the crowd and escaped.
b. To plunge one's hand into something: dove into the cookie jar.
6. To lunge or leap headfirst: dove for the loose ball.
7. To plunge into an activity or enterprise with vigor and gusto.
8. Sports To exaggerate a fall in an attempt to induce a referee to call a penalty on an opponent.
1. To cause (an aircraft, for example) to dive.
2. To go scuba-diving to or along: We dove that reef last week.
a. A plunge into water, especially done headfirst and in a way established for athletic competition.
b. The act or an instance of going under water, as of a submarine or a skin diver.
c. A nearly vertical descent at an accelerated speed through the air.
2. A rapid or abrupt decrease: Stock prices took a dive.
a. Slang A disreputable or run-down bar or nightclub.
b. A run-down residence.
4. Sports
a. A knockout feigned by a prizefighter: The challenger took a dive.
b. An exaggerated fall, especially by a hockey player, intended to draw a penalty against an opponent.
a. A lunge or a headlong jump: made a dive to catch the falling teacup.
b. Football An offensive play in which the carrier of the ball plunges into the opposing line in order to gain short yardage.

[Middle English diven, from Old English dȳfan, to dip, and from dūfan, to sink; see dheub- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: Either dove or dived is acceptable as the past tense of dive. In our 2008 survey 92 percent of the Usage Panel accepted dove and 72 percent accepted dived in the sentence. Keeping their New Year's Day tradition, the L Street Brownies dove/dived into Dorchester Bay this morning. This may seem odd considering that dived is actually the older form. In fact, the emergence of dove runs against the general tendency of change in English verb forms. Old English had two classes of verbs: strong verbs, whose past tense was indicated by a change in their vowel (a process that survives in such present-day English verbs as drive/drove and fling/flung); and weak verbs, whose past was formed with a suffix related to -ed in Modern English (as in present-day English live/lived and move/moved). Dive comes from one of these weak verbs. Since the Old English period, many verbs have changed from the strong pattern to the weak one; for example, the past tense of step, formerly stop, became stepped. Over the years, in fact, the weak pattern has become so prevalent that we use the term regular to refer to verbs that form their past tense by suffixation of -ed. However, there have occasionally been changes in the other direction: the past tense of wear, now wore, was once werede, and that of spit, now spat, was once spitede. The development of dove is an additional example of the small group of verbs that have swum against the historical tide.

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.