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

where (wâr, hwâr)
1. At or in what place: Where is the elevator?
2. In what situation or position: Where would we be without your help?
3. From what place or source: Where did you get this idea?
4. To what situation; toward what end: Where is this argument leading?
a. At, to, or in a place in which: He lives where the climate is mild. We should go where it is quieter.
b. At, to, or in a situation in which: I want to know where you expect the project to be in six months.
a. At, to, or in any place in which; wherever: Sit where you like.
b. At, to, or in any situation in which; wherever: Keeping dangerous substances out of reach is important where children are concerned.
3. Whereas: That model has an attractive design, where this one is more dependable.
4. Usage Problem That: I read where they're closing down the paper mill.
a. At, to, or in a place in which: She moved to a city where jobs were more plentiful.
b. What place, source, or cause: Where are you from?
c. The place or situation at, in, or to which: We're already three miles from where we left.
2. Usage Problem In which: Show me an example where increasing supply has actually increased demand.
The place or occasion: We know the when but not the where of it.

[Middle English, from Old English hwǣr; see kwo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: When where is used to refer to a point of origin, the preposition from is required: Where did she come from? From where I sit, the situation looks bleak. When it is used to refer to a destination, the preposition to is generally superfluous: Where is she going (rather than Where is she going to)? The place where they are going is beautiful. When it is used to refer to the location of a person, event, or structure, the use of at is widely regarded as regional or colloquial: Where is the station (not Where is the station at)? · Where is also used to mean “in which” as in Show me an example where government intervention in the market has worked. The Usage Panel, formerly dubious about this use of where, has come to accept it over the years. In our 2017 survey, 77 percent of the Panel accepted the example just given, and 81 percent accepted Sometimes the discussion degenerates into a situation where each person accuses the other of being illogical, a significant increase from the acceptance figures of 60 and 44 percent respectively for the same sentences in 2001. · Where is also used in instances where that might normally be expected, as in I don't see where they had much choice but to give up. The Usage Panel has less fondness for this usage. Only 49 percent of the Panel accepted this sentence in our 2017 survey. See Usage Note at why.

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.