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

ruff 1 (rŭf)
Share:
n.
1. A stiffly starched frilled or pleated circular collar of lace, muslin, or other fine fabric, worn by men and women in the 1500s and 1600s.
2. A distinctive collarlike projection around the neck, as of feathers on a bird or of fur on a mammal.
3. A migratory sandpiper (Philomachus pugnax) of the Eastern Hemisphere, the male of which has collarlike, erectile feathers around the neck during the breeding season.

[Perhaps short for RUFFLE1.]

ruffed adj.
(click for a larger image)
ruff1
c. 1600 Portrait of a Gentleman, by El Greco

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
ruff 2 (rŭf) Games
Share:
n.
1. The playing of a trump card when one cannot follow suit.
2. An old game resembling whist.
tr. & intr.v. ruffed, ruff·ing, ruffs
To trump or play a trump.

[Obsolete French ronfle, roffle, a kind of card game, from Old French ronfle, from renfler, to rise : re-, re- + enfler, to cause to swell (from Latin īnflāre; see INFLATE).]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
ruff 3 (rŭf)
Share:
n.
1. also ruffe Any of several marine fishes of the family Centrolophidae, usually having spiny dorsal fins.
2. A small edible fish (Arripis georgianus) of coastal and estuarine waters of southern Australia. Also called roughy.
3. Variant of ruffe.

[Middle English rowe, roffe, ruffe, any of various fishes, especially Gymnocephalus cernuus, perhaps from variant of rough, rough; see ROUGH, or from Medieval Latin rufus, a kind of fish (perhaps from Latin rūfus, red, tawny; see RUFOUS).]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
ruff 4 (rŭf)
Share:
n.
See ruffle2.

[Of imitative origin.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 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.