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

wing (wĭng)
a. One of a pair of movable appendages used for flying, as the feather-covered modified forelimb of a bird or the skin-covered modified forelimb of a bat or pterosaur.
b. One of the one or two pairs of membranous structures used for flying that extend from the thorax of an insect.
c. A structure or part used by an animal for gliding through the air, as the folds of skin of a flying squirrel or the enlarged pectoral fins of a flying fish.
d. wings An outspread pair of stylized bird's wings worn as insignia by qualified pilots or air crew members.
2. An airfoil whose principal function is providing lift, especially either of two such airfoils symmetrically positioned on each side of the fuselage of an aircraft.
3. Botany
a. A thin or membranous extension, as of the fruit of a maple or ash, the seed of a pine, or the branches of a winged elm.
b. One of the lateral petals of the flower of certain plants in the pea family, such as the sweet pea.
4. Something that resembles a wing in appearance or function, especially:
a. The vane of a weathervane.
b. The sail of a ship.
c. A folding section, as of a double door or of a movable partition.
d. Either of the two side projections on the back of a wing chair.
e. A flat of theatrical scenery projecting onto the stage from the side.
f. Chiefly British The fender of a motor vehicle.
a. A structure that forms an extended part of or is attached to a main structure: the east wing of the school; the children's wing of the hospital.
b. Either of the unseen backstage areas on the sides of the stage of a proscenium theater.
a. The act or manner of flying.
b. A means of flight or rapid movement: Fear lent wings to his feet.
a. A group affiliated with or subordinate to an older or larger organization.
b. Either of two groups with opposing views within a larger group; a faction.
c. A section of a party, legislature, or community holding distinct, especially dissenting, political views: the conservative wing.
a. Either the left or right flank of an army or a naval fleet.
b. An air force unit larger than a group but smaller than a numbered air force or, formerly, than a division.
9. Sports
a. Either of the forward positions near the sides of the playing area, especially in hockey.
b. A player who plays this position.
v. winged, wing·ing, wings
To move swiftly through the air or on wings: birds winging south for the winter.
a. To pass over or through with wings: birds winging the air.
b. To make (one's way) through the air or on wings: birds winging their way north.
c. To carry or transport by flying: The plane winged the troops back home.
a. To furnish with wings: a mythological horse that is winged.
b. To feather (an arrow).
3. To throw or propel (a ball, for example) through the air.
4. To strike or wound in a wing or an appendage: winged me with a snowball.
5. To furnish with side or subordinate extensions, as a building or an altarpiece.
6. To say or do (something) without preparation or forethought; improvise: decided to wing his remarks to reporters.
give wing to
1. To provide the impetus for or enable (something): a mentor who gave wing to my career.
2. To free from constraints or allow to operate freely: a poet who gave wing to her imagination.
in the wings
1. In the stage wings, unseen by the audience.
2. Close by in the background; available at short notice: a presidential candidate waiting in the wings.
on the wing
In flight; flying.
take wing
1. To fly off; soar away.
2. To make progress or have success, especially in a sudden or dramatic manner: when her career took wing.
under (one's) wing
Under one's protection; in one's care.
wing it Informal
To improvise: I hadn't prepared for the interview, so I had to wing it.

[Middle English wenge, winge, of Scandinavian origin; see wē- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

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.