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

Sherman Alexie

Poet; fiction writer

Eric Alterman

Author; Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Roger Angell

Writer; editor

Natalie Angier

Science journalist; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

Margaret Atwood


Kathryn H. Au

Chief Executive Officer, SchoolRise, LLC; former Dai Ho Chun Professor of Education, University of Hawaii

John Baugh

Margaret Bush Wilson Professor in Arts and Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis; Professor Emeritus of Education and Linguistics, Stanford University

Alison Bechdel


Carolyn Wilkerson Bell

Susan Duval Adams Professor of English Emerita, Randolph-Macon Women's College

Harold Bloom

Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English, Yale University; MacArthur Fellow

Paul Bloom

Professor of Psychology, Yale University

Roy Blount, Jr.

Writer; radio commentator; former president, Authors Guild

Katherine Boo

Author; staff writer, The New Yorker; MacArthur Fellow; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Leo Braudy

University Professor and Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature, University of Southern California

Joan Bresnan

Sadie Dernham Patek Professor Emerita in Humanities and Senior Researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University

Rachel M. Brownstein

Professor of English, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Stephen Budiansky


Lorene Cary


Michael Chabon

Writer; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Walter C. Clemens, Jr.

Writer; Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Boston University; Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Writer, The Atlantic

Robin Cook

Physician; writer

Maureen Corrigan

Writer; book reviewer; Lecturer and Critic in Residence, Department of English, Georgetown University

Anne Curzan

Professor of English, University of Michigan

Gene D. Dahmen

Attorney; former president, Boston Bar Association; partner, Verrill Dana, LLP

Lydia Davis

Author; translator; Professor Emerita, State University of New York—Albany

Junot Díaz

Author; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Joan Didion


Annie Dillard

Writer; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Mark Doty

Poet; Distinguished Writer, Rutgers University

Rita Dove

Writer; Commonwealth Professor of English, University of Virginia; recipient, Pulitzer Prize; former US poet laureate

Esther Dyson

Chairman, EDventure Holdings

Freeman J. Dyson

Writer; physicist; Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study

Connie Eble

Professor of English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Anne Edwards

Biographer; novelist; former President, Authors Guild

Louise Erdrich


Carolly Erickson

Historian; writer

James Fallows

Writer; national correspondent, The Atlantic

Drew Gilpin Faust

Historian; President, Harvard University

Frances FitzGerald

Writer; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Margalit Fox

Author; senior writer, The New York Times

Elizabeth Frank

Writer; Joseph E. Harry Professor of Modern Languages and Literature, Bard College; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Jonathan Franzen


Mary Gaitskill


Catherine Gallagher

Eggers Professor of English Literature, University of California, Berkeley

Sara Garnes

Linguist; Associate Professor of English Emerita, Ohio State University

Michael G. Gartner

Former president, Board of Regents, State of Iowa; language columnist; former president, NBC News; former president, American Society of Newspaper Editors; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

J. Edward Gates

Lexicographer; editor; Professor Emeritus of English, Indiana State University

James Gleick

Author; columnist

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Writer; MacArthur Fellow

Adam Gopnik

Writer; staff writer, The New Yorker

Peter Gordon

Puzzlemaker; crossword editor

Annette Gordon-Reed

Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School; Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; MacArthur Fellow; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Jonathan Gottschall

Author; Professor of English, Washington and Jefferson College

Philip Gourevitch

Writer; former editor, The Paris Review

Francine du Plessix Gray


Georgia M. Green

Writer; Professor Emerita of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Stephen Greenblatt

John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Robert Lane Greene

Author; Correspondent and language columnist, The Economist

Linda Gregerson

Poet; critic; Caroline Walker Bynum Distinguished University Professor of English, University of Michigan

Alma Guillermoprieto

Writer; staff writer, The New Yorker; MacArthur Fellow

Jessica Hagedorn

Novelist; poet

Patricia Hampl

Writer; Regents’ Professor of English, University of Minnesota

Sam Harris

Author; neuroscientist

Robert Hass

Former US poet laureate; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Joel Havemann

Author; former correspondent, Los Angeles Times

Marti Hearst

Professor, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley

William Least Heat-Moon


Mark Helprin


Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham

Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Oscar Hijuelos

Author; recipient, Pulitzer Prize and Rome Prize

Douglas R. Hofstadter

Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Comparative Literature and Director of the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition, Indiana University, Bloomington; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Jenny Holzer

Artist; writer

Gloria Hom

Educator and consultant; former professor of economics, Mission College; former trustee, California State University

Garrett Hongo

Writer; Distinguished Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oregon

Laurence Horn

Author; Professor of Linguistics and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Yale University

Jennifer James

Cultural anthropologist; writer

Edward P. Jones

Author; Professor of English, The George Washington University; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Erica Jong

Poet; novelist; essayist

Wendy Kaminer


Alice Kaplan

John M. Musser Professor of French, Yale University

Elizabeth T. Kennan

President Emerita, Mount Holyoke College

Tracy Kidder

Writer; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Barbara Kingsolver


Maxine Hong Kingston

Writer; recipient, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction

Jeremy K.B. Kinsman

Columnist; former Canadian Ambassador to the European Union

Laura Kipnis

Writer; Professor of Radio-TV-Film, Northwestern University

Elizabeth Kolbert

Journalist; author

Ed Koren

Cartoonist, The New Yorker

Robert Kuttner

Coeditor and cofounder, The American Prospect; columnist, The Boston Globe

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education, Harvard University; MacArthur Fellow

David Leavitt

Writer; Professor of English, University of Florida

Jill Lepore

Author; Professor of History, Harvard University

Wendy Lesser

Writer; Editor, The Threepenny Review

Lawrence Lessig

Professor, Harvard Law School

Beth Levin

William H. Bonsall Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Linguistics, Stanford University

Michael Lewis


Mark Liberman

Professor of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania

James Lindgren

Professor of Law, Northwestern University

Phillip Lopate

Writer; Professor and Nonfiction Director, Columbia University School of the Arts

Lois Lowry


Heather Mac Donald

Author; John M. Olin Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Megan Marshall

Biographer; Charles Wesley Emerson College Professor, Emerson College; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Suzanne R. Massie

Writer; lecturer on Russian history and culture

Armistead Maupin


Jane Mayer


Alice E. Mayhew

Editorial Director, Simon & Schuster

Terrence McNally

Playwright; recipient, four Tony Awards

John H. McWhorter

Linguist; writer; Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Hassan Minor, Jr.

Managing Director, datablack; former Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Howard University

Lorrie Moore

Writer; Delmore Schwartz Professor in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Lance Morrow

Author; biographer; essayist, Time

Alice Munro

Author; recipient, Nobel Prize in Literature

Cullen Murphy

Editor at Large, Vanity Fair

Thomas M.T. Niles

President Emeritus, United States Council for International Business

Marsha Norman

Playwright; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Susan Orlean

Author; staff writer, The New Yorker

Cynthia Ozick

Novelist; essayist

Suzan-Lori Parks

Writer; MacArthur Fellow; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Margaret Sayers Peden

Translator; Professor Emerita of Spanish, University of Missouri

Merrill Perlman

Editor; language columnist, Columbia Journalism Review

Ivars Peterson

Director of Publications and Communications, Mathematical Association of America

Steven Pinker

Chair (2008–2018)

Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University

Robert Pinsky

Poet; translator; former US poet laureate; Professor of English, Boston University

Michael Pollan

Author; Professor of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley

Virginia Postrel

Author; columnist, Bloomberg View

Alvin F. Poussaint

Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Francine Prose


Jane Bryant Quinn

Journalist; financial columnist

Claudia Rankine

Poet; playwright; Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry, Yale University; MacArthur Fellow

Richard Rhodes

Author; recipient, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize; MacArthur Fellow

Frank Rich

Author; former columnist, The New York Times; writer-at-large, New York magazine

John R. Rickford

J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor in Linguistics and the Humanities and Pritzker University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, Stanford University

Jason L. Riley

Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute; columnist, The Wall Street Journal

Mary Roach


Richard Rodriguez


Robert J. Samuelson

Columnist, The Washington Post

John Sayles

Film director; writer; screenwriter; actor

Lloyd Schwartz

Poet; music critic; Frederick S. Troy Professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

David Sedaris

Writer; humorist

Will Shortz

Puzzlemaker; crossword editor, The New York Times

Elaine Showalter

Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities, Emerita, Princeton University

Leslie Marmon Silko


John Simon

Drama and film critic

Mona Simpson

Novelist; Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles

David Skinner


Anna Deavere Smith

Playwright; actress; professor; MacArthur Fellow; recipient, National Endowment for the Humanities Medal

Tracy K. Smith

Poet; Professor of Creative Writing, Princeton University; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Christina Hoff Sommers

Author; resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute

A.E. Stallings

Poet; poetry program director, Athens Centre; MacArthur Fellow

Susan Stamberg

Special correspondent, National Public Radio

Margaret O’Brien Steinfels

Codirector, Center on Religion and Culture, Fordham University; former editor in chief, Commonweal

Farah Stockman

Reporter, The New York Times; former columnist, The Boston Globe; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Amy Tan


Deborah Tannen

University Professor and Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University

Shane Templeton

Foundation Professor of Literacy Studies, University of Nevada, Reno

Paul Theroux

Novelist; travel writer

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas


Peter Tiersma

Professor of Law and Hon. William Matthew Byrne, Jr. Chair, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles

Elizabeth C. Traugott

Professor Emerita of Linguistics and English, Stanford University

Calvin Trillin

Staff writer, The New Yorker

Mark Turner

Institute Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University

Anne Tyler

Novelist; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Helen H. Vendler

Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor, Harvard University

Paula Vogel

Eugene O'Neill Professor (Adjunct) and Chair of Playwrighting, Yale School of Drama; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

William T. Vollmann


Eugene Volokh

Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles

Barbara Wallraff

Author; editor

Fay Weldon

Writer; Professor of Creative Writing, Brunel University

Colson Whitehead

Writer; MacArthur Fellow; recipient, Pulitzer Prize

Tobias Wolff

Writer; Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor of English, Stanford University

Richard A. Young

Writer; editor; lecturer; publisher; engineer; Executive Director, National Registry of Environmental Professionals

We regret that the following members of the Usage Panel, who participated in the program for this edition, have died.

Louis Auchincloss, Sheridan Baker, Letitia Baldrige, Jacques Barzun, Daniel Bell, Kallia H. Bokser, Julian Bond, William F. Buckley, Jr., Gabrielle Burton, Claire Kehrwald Cook, Robert W. Creamer, Frank Deford, William K. Durr, Howard Fast, John Kenneth Galbraith, Mark O. Hatfield, Molly Ivins, Alfred E. Kahn, Justin Kaplan, Stanley Kauffmann, Galway Kinnell, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Maxine Kumin, Anthony Lewis, Robert Manning, Leonard Michaels, Bharati Mukherjee, Edwin Newman, Geoffrey Nunberg, Ellen F. Prince, William James Raspberry, Edward W. Rosenheim, Antonin Scalia, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Harvey Shapiro, Carlota S. Smith, Theodore C. Sorensen, Stewart L. Udall, David Foster Wallace, Calvert Watkins, Jacqueline Grennan Wexler, Tom Wicker, Alden S. Wood, William Zinsser

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.