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

wor·ry (wûrē, wŭrē)
v. wor·ried, wor·ry·ing, wor·ries
1. To feel uneasy or concerned about something; be troubled. See Synonyms at brood.
a. To seize something with the teeth and bite or tear repeatedly: a squirrel worrying at a nut.
b. To touch or handle something nervously or persistently: worry at a hangnail.
c. To attempt to deal with something in a persistent or dogged manner: worried along at the problem.
1. To cause to feel anxious, distressed, or troubled. See Synonyms at trouble.
a. To seize with the teeth and bite or tug at repeatedly: a dog worrying a bone.
b. To touch or handle nervously or persistently: worrying the loose tooth.
c. To attack roughly and repeatedly; harass: worrying the enemy ships.
d. To bother or annoy, as with petty complaints.
e. To attempt to deal with in a persistent or repeated manner: Analysts have worried the problem for a decade.
3. To chase and nip at or attack: a dog worrying steers.
n. pl. wor·ries
1. The act of worrying or the condition of being worried; persistent mental uneasiness: "Having come to a decision, the lad felt a sense of relief from the worry that had haunted him for many sleepless nights" (Edgar Rice Burroughs).
2. A source of nagging concern or uneasiness.
not to worry Informal
There is nothing to worry about; there is no need to be concerned: "But not to worry: it all ... falls into place in the book's second half, where the language is plainer" (Hallowell Bowser).

[Middle English werien, worien, to strangle, from Old English wyrgan; see wer-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

worri·er n.

Word History: The ancestor of worry, the Old English verb wyrgan, meant "to strangle." Its Middle English descendant, worien, kept this sense and developed the new sense "to grasp by the throat with the teeth and lacerate" or "to kill or injure by biting and shaking." This is the way wolves might attack sheep, for example. In the 1500s worry began to be used in the sense "to harass, as by rough treatment or attack" or "to assault verbally," and in the 1600s the word took on the sense "to bother, distress, or persecute." It was a small step from this sense to the main modern senses "to cause to feel anxious or distressed" and "to feel troubled or uneasy," first recorded in the 1800s.

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.