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

smoke (smōk)
a. A mixture of gases and small suspended particles of soot or other solids, resulting from the burning of materials such as wood or coal.
b. A cloud of such gases and suspended particles.
c. A vapor, mist, or fume that resembles this.
2. Something insubstantial, unreal, or transitory: "What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion" (Henry David Thoreau).
a. The act of smoking a form of tobacco: went out for a smoke.
b. The duration of this act.
4. Informal Tobacco in a form that can be smoked, especially a cigarette: money to buy smokes.
5. A substance used in warfare to produce a smokescreen.
6. Something used to conceal or obscure.
7. A pale to grayish blue to bluish or dark gray.
8. Baseball Pitches thrown at high velocity; fast balls: threw a lot of smoke in the early innings.
v. smoked, smok·ing, smokes
a. To draw in and exhale smoke from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe: It's forbidden to smoke here.
b. To engage in smoking regularly or habitually: He smoked for years before stopping.
2. To emit smoke or a smokelike substance: chimneys smoking in the cold air.
3. To emit smoke excessively: The station wagon smoked even after the tune-up.
4. Slang
a. To go or proceed at high speed.
b. To play or perform energetically: The band was really smoking in the second set.
a. To draw in and exhale the smoke of (tobacco, for example): I've never smoked a panatela.
b. To do so regularly or habitually: I used to smoke filtered cigarettes.
2. To preserve (meat or fish) by exposure to the aromatic smoke of burning hardwood, usually after pickling in salt or brine.
a. To fumigate (a house, for example).
b. To expose (animals, especially insects) to smoke in order to immobilize or drive away.
4. To expose (glass) to smoke in order to darken or change its color.
5. Slang
a. To kill; murder.
b. To defeat decisively, as in a competition.
6. Baseball To throw (a pitch) at high velocity.
Phrasal Verb:
smoke out
1. To force out of a place of hiding or concealment by or as if by the use of smoke.
2. To detect and bring to public view; expose or reveal: smoke out a scandal.
go up in smoke
1. To be destroyed by fire.
2. To experience complete failure in an attempt to do or achieve something: Our plans to open a bakery went up in smoke when we were unable to secure funding.
smoke and mirrors
Something that deceives or distorts the truth: Your explanation is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

[Middle English, from Old English smoca.]

smoka·ble, smokea·ble adj.

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.