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Guide khổng lồ the Online American HeritageDictionary

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, FifthEdition, is a record of English vocabulary as it is used by a broadand diverse group of educated speakers and writers. Its word listreflects the many complex elements that constitute our language. Thisguide explains how we have organized & presented the great array ofinformation contained in the online dictionary & is intended lớn enableyou to find and understand that information quickly và easily.

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Superscript numbers

Unrelated words with identical spellings are enteredseparately and have superscript, or raised, numbers: tick1 (“A light,sharp, clicking sound”), tick2 (“A small bloodsucking arachnid”), tick3(“A cloth case for a mattress or pillow”), etc.


An entry word and its derived forms are divided into syllables by dots:ac·e·tate. In entries such as ethyl acetate that consist of two or morewords separated by spaces, the words without centered dots are dividedinto syllables at their own places in the dictionary. Pronunciations aresyllabicated as well, for the sake of clarity. Sometimes thesyllabication of the pronunciation differs from the syllabication of theentry word because the division of the pronunciation followsphonological rules, while the division of the entry word reflects theestablished practice of printers and editors in breaking words at theend of a line for ease of reading.


To hear the pronunciation of the word spoken aloud, you can simply click on thespeaker icon that appears immediately after the word at the beginning ofthe entry. The pronunciation is also represented by special symbols thatare enclosed in parentheses & appear after the boldface entry word. Ifan entry word & a variant of that entry word chia sẻ the samepronunciation, the pronunciation is shown immediately after the variant.If the pronunciation of the variant differs, pronunciations follow theforms to lớn which they apply. If an entry or variant includes more than onepronunciation, subsequent pronunciations show only the syllables thatare different in sound quality or áp lực from the first pronunciation orthat are necessary for clarity. When multiple pronunciations are shown,the first is assumed khổng lồ be the most common, but the difference infrequency may be insignificant.

A guide that explains how each symbol is pronounced can be found here.


The relative emphasis with which the syllables of a word or phrase are spoken, called stress, isindicated in three different ways. The strongest, or primary, bít tất tay ismarked with a bold mark (). An intermediate, or secondary, màn chơi ofstress is marked with a similar but lighter mark (′). The weakest stressis unmarked. Words of one syllable show no stress mark.


Written English in the United States is relatively standardized, but itnonetheless allows for many variant spellings and stylings. All variantsshown in this dictionary are acceptable in any context unless arestrictive label, such as a dialect label, indicates otherwise.Variants appear in boldface & are of two kinds: equal & unequal.

Equal variants The word or joining an entry word và its variant(on·line or on-line) indicates that these forms occur with roughly equalfrequency in edited sources based on our electronic & printedcitational evidence. Unequal variants The word also joining an entryword và its variant (am·bi·ance also am·bi·ence) indicates that thevariant form occurs less frequently than the form given first.

Variants that are alphabetically very close lớn their entry words bởi vì not havetheir own entries entered in the online dictionary. All other variantsare entered as cross-references:

me·di·e·val also me·di·ae·val (mē′dē-ēvəl, mĕd′ē-, mĭ-dēvəl)
me·di·ae·val (mē′dē-ēvəl, mĕd′ē-, mĭ-dēvəl) adj. Variant of medieval.

British variants

A number of variants consist of spellings preferred in the United Kingdom và inmany former British colonies and territories other than the UnitedStates. These variants, such as defence và colour, are labeled ChieflyBritish. They have their own entries but are not listed at theAmerican-English entries lớn which they relate. (Words that kết thúc with thesuffix –ize, such as realize, are an exception khổng lồ this rule. In mostcases, this dictionary does not enter the British spelling ending in–ise at all.) When a word with a chiefly British variant occurs incompounds, the variant is not repeated at the compound. For example, thechiefly British variant colour is given for màu sắc but not forcolorblind, color guard, & other such compounds.

Part-of-Speech Labels

The following italicized labels indicate parts of speech:

adj. Adjectiveadv. Adverbconj. Conjunctiondef.art. Definite articleindef.art. Indefinite articleinterj. Interjectionn. Nounprep. Prepositionpron. Pronounv. Verb

The part-of-speech labels are supplemented as necessary by the followingadditional abbreviations:

pl. Pluralsing. Singularpl.n. Plural nountr. Transitiveintr. Intransitiveaux. Auxiliarypref. Prefixsuff. Suffixabbr. Abbreviation

Certain entries, such as contractions, symbols, và trademarks, do nothave part-of-speech labels.

Sometimes an entry word fulfills more than one grammatical function. For example, current can be an adjective(current pricing; current negotiations) & a noun (a current of air;the swift current of a river; electric current). In such cases thedifferent parts of speech are defined within a single entry called acombined entry. The shift in grammatical function is indicated by theappropriate part-of-speech label. Syllabications & pronunciations thatdiffer for these parts of speech are also included, along with anyvariant spellings. Inflected forms are given if necessary & arefollowed by definitions:

re·cord (rĭ-kôrd)
ex·cuse (ĭk-skyz)


Some entries include additional inflected forms of theword in question, such as principal parts of verbs (cap·i·tal·ize,-ized, -iz·ing, -iz·es), degrees of comparison of adjectives và adverbsformed by inflection (a·ble, a·bler, a·blest), and irregular plurals ofnouns và plurals whose formation might cause a spelling problem(ra·di·us, -di·i, -di·us·es). These inflected forms are usuallyshortened to lớn the last syllable of the entry word plus the inflectionalending.

Principal parts of verbs

The principal parts of verbs are listed in this order: past tense, past participle, present participle, andthird person singular present tense. For example, fly1(flī) has theprincipal parts flew, flown, fly·ing, flies. When the past tense và thepast participle are identical, only three principal parts are given.

Comparison of adjectives and adverbs

Adjectives and adverbs whosecomparative và superlative degrees are formed by adding –er and –est tothe unchanged word show these comparative & superlative suffixesimmediately after the part-of-speech label:

high (hī) adj.high·er, high·est

Irregular comparative and superlative forms are given in full, as in bad, worse, worst.

Irregular plurals

Plurals of nouns other than those formed regularly by adding the suffixes –s or –es are shown andlabeled pl.:

Regular plurals are also shown when spelling might be a problem, as in the case of ra·di·o.

A noun that is chiefly or exclusively plural in both form và meaning,such as cat·tle, has the part-of-speech label pl.n. Nouns that areplural in form but sometimes or always take a singular verb, such asaer·o·bics and pol·i·tics, are labeled n. (used with a sing. Or pl. Verb) or n.(used with a sing. Verb).

Separate entries for inflected forms

Inflected forms that are irregular are entered separately in thedictionary when they are not near the main entry word alphabetically.For instance, went (wĕnt) has its own entry where it is defined as thepast tense of go1. Inflections that fall very close khổng lồ the main wordalphabetically, such as muddled, the past tense of mudd·le, are notgiven their own entries.


This dictionary uses various labels toidentify entries that are part of the terminology of specific subjectsand entries for which usage is limited khổng lồ certain geographical areas.Other labels provide guidance regarding various levels of formality andusage.

A subject label, such as Chemistry or Sports, identifies thespecial area of knowledge lớn which an entry word or a single definitionapplies.A status label, such as Nonstandard, Slang, Informal,Offensive, or Derogatory, indicates that an entry word or a definitionis limited lớn a particular cấp độ or style of usage. All words anddefinitions not restricted by such a label should be regarded asappropriate for use in all standard or formal contexts.The label Usage Problem label warns of possible difficulties or controversiesinvolving grammar, diction, or writing style. A word or definition solabeled is discussed in a Usage Note.The labels Archaic & Obsolete signal words or senses whose use in modern English is uncommon. Archaicwords have not been in common use since at least the early 1900s exceptin self-consciously old-fashioned or poetic contexts. The label Obsoleteis used for words and senses that have not been in common use since atleast the mid-1700s.A regional or dialect label, such as ChieflyBritish or Upper Midwest, indicates that a particular entry word orsense is mostly limited to lớn specific areas of the English-speaking worldor lớn particular parts of the United States.


A cross-reference signals that additional information about one entry canbe found at another entry. Cross-references have two main functions: toavoid needless duplication of information and to indicate where furtherdiscussion of a word occurs. The entry referred to in a cross-referenceappears in boldface type preceded by a brief descriptive orinstructional phrase:

Order of Senses

Entries containing more than one sense arearranged for the convenience of the reader with the central và oftenthe most commonly sought meaning first. Senses and subsenses are groupedto show their relationships with each other. For example, in the entryat fatal, the commonly sought meaning “Causing or capable of causingdeath” appears first và the now obsolete sense “Having been destined;fated” comes last in the series of five.

Information such as regional labels or alternate pronunciations that apply only to lớn a particular senseor subsense is shown after the number or letter of that sense orsubsense.

Illustrative Examples

In this dictionary there are tens ofthousands of illustrative examples that follow the definitions và showthe entry word in typical contexts. These illustrative examples appearin italics; about 5,000 of them are quotations. The examples are takenfrom our files of electronic and printed citations showing patterns ofword usage by a broad group of educated speakers in a wide array ofpublications. These examples are especially helpful in showing changingusage, attesting new words và meanings, illustrating transitive andintransitive verbs, & exemplifying levels và styles of usage.

Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb, such as hóa trang or set about, is an expressionconsisting of a verb & an adverb or a preposition that together have ameaning that is different from the total of the meanings of itsconstituent parts. Phrasal verbs, which appear in boldface, follow themain definitions in an entry and are listed in alphabetical order.


An idiom is an expression, such as kick the bucket or under acloud, consisting of two or more words whose meaning cannot be deducedfrom the literal meanings of its words. Idioms, like phrasal verbs, arelisted alphabetically in boldface và fully defined near the kết thúc of anentry. Idioms normally appear at the entry for the first importantinvariant word in the idiom—usually a verb or noun.

Undefined Forms

At the kết thúc of many entries additional closely related words appear inboldface without definitions. These words, usually formed from the entrywords by the addition (or in some cases, the subtraction) of suffixes,involve the same basic meaning as the entry word but have differentgrammatical functions, as indicated by their part-of-speech labels. Forinstance, the entry at ex·cuse includes four undefined forms: —ex·cusa·ble adj., —ex·cusa·ble·ness n., —ex·cusa·bly adv., and—ex·cuser n.


Etymologies, appearing in square brackets following the definitions, trace the history of words as far back in time as can be determined with reasonable certainty. The stage most closely preceding Modern English is given first, with each earlier stage following in sequence:

cab·in (kăbĭn) n.1. A small, roughly built house; a cottage. . . .

A language name, linguistic form, và brief definition or gloss of that khung are given for each stage of the derivation. In order lớn avoid redundancy, however, a language, form, or gloss is not repeated if it is identical to the corresponding thành phầm in the immediately preceding stage. In the etymology shown for cabin, the different Middle English, Old French, và Late Latin forms all have the same gloss, which is the same as the first definition of the Modern English word cabin: “a small, roughly built house.”

Content of etymologies.

The etymologies in this dictionary are designed to lớn be as readable as possible. Only parts of speech are abbreviated. The traditional language of descriptive grammar is used khổng lồ identify parts of speech và various grammatical và morphological forms & processes, such as diminutive, frequentative, variant, stem, past participle, & metathesis. All of these terms are fully defined entries in the dictionary. Likewise, every language cited in an etymology is either a dictionary entry or is glossed in the etymology itself.

Sometimes a stage in the history of the word is not attested, yet there is reasonable certainty from comparative evidence about what the missing linguistic khung looked like and what language it belonged to. These unattested forms are preceded by an asterisk indicating their hypothetical nature:

cer·tain (sûrtn) adj.1.

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Definite; fixed: set aside a certain sum each week.2. Sure to come or happen; inevitable: certain success. . . . krei- in App. I.>

If a word is taken from the name of a person or place, the name is identified with pertinent information about time or place. The etymology usually stops there, although a further etymology of the name itself is occasionally given.

Some words are not given etymologies. These include compounds và derivatives formed in English from words or word elements that are entries in the dictionary, such as sodium chloride, emergence, & euploid. Derivatives such as emergence, from emerge, in which only the final vowel of one constituent has been deleted, are assumed to lớn be sufficiently understandable not to need etymologies. All trademarks, as well as certain interjections & ethnic names that are Anglicizations of a group’s name for itself, also vì chưng not have etymologies.

Style of etymologies.

The etymologies present a great giảm giá of complex information in a small space, & for this reason certain typographic và stylistic conventions are used. Linguistic forms that are not Modern English words appear in italics, and glosses and language names appear in roman type. When a compound word is split into its component elements in an etymology, a colon introduces them. Each element is traced in turn to lớn its further origins. Parentheses enclose the further history of a part of a compound:

pseud·e·pig·ra·pha (s′dĭ-pĭgrə-fə) pl.n.1. Spurious writ¬ings, especially writings falsely attributed khổng lồ biblical characters or times. 2. A body toàn thân of texts written between 200 BC & AD 200 và spuriously ascribed khổng lồ various prophets và kings of Hebrew Scriptures. gerbh- in Indo-European roots).>

At times it is necessary to cross-refer from one etymology khổng lồ another. This is done either khổng lồ avoid repeating part of a lengthy và complex derivation or lớn indicate the close relationship between two different Modern English words. Words whose dictionary entries contain more etymological information are printed in small capitals in the etymologies:

bat 3 (băt) tr.v. bat·ted, bat·ting, bats lớn wink or flutter: bat one"s eyelashes. Idiom: not bat an eye/eyelash Informal khổng lồ show no emotion; appear unaffected: The reporter didn"t bat an eyelash while reading the gruesome news.

All languages mentioned in the etymologies are either entered and defined in the dictionary or described briefly in the etymology itself. The transliterations of Greek, Russian, Arabic, và Hebrew are as shown in the table at alphabet. Old English thorn (Þ) & edh (ð) are both given as th, whereas Old Norse thorn is spelled as th & the phonemically distinct edh as dh. In Latin and Greek, all long vowels are marked with macrons. The transcription of African & Native American languages occasionally requires the use of special symbols (usually drawn from the International Phonetic Alphabet) whose values will be apparent khổng lồ specialists but are not discussed here. Mandarin Chinese forms are given in the Pinyin system. Cantonese forms are given according khổng lồ the Jyutping system developed by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong. Special symbols are also used in the etymologies of words of Chinese origin, which size one of the largest groups of words of non-Indo-European and non-Semitic origin in English. Many English words of Chinese origin are borrowings of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese words that were themselves borrowed from Chinese in medieval times, at the stage of the Chinese language known as Middle Chinese. The presentation of the pronunciation of Middle Chinese words, founded upon the work of the scholar Edmund Pulleyblank, uses the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet as well as other symbols particular to lớn the study of the Sinitic languages.

Roots Appendices.

The great bulk of the vocabulary of English can be traced back to a reconstructed language called Proto-Indo-European, which is ancestral not only lớn English but to lớn most languages of Europe and many of southwest and southern Asia. English words can be so traced either through their native origins in Old English or Proto-Germanic or through borrowings from other Indo-European languages (such as Greek, Latin, và the Romance languages). A sizable number of English words, however, are not of Indo-European origin, & most prominent and numerous among these are those borrowed from the Semitic languages, a family unrelated to Indo-European that includes Hebrew and Arabic. Scholars have been able to reconstruct Proto-Semitic, the common ancestor of the Semitic languages, in much the same way they have reconstructed Proto-Indo-European. If an English word is ultimately derived from a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Semitic root, the etymology in the dictionary traces the word back to lớn its earliest documentary attestation, then refers the reader khổng lồ an entry in the Appendix of Indo-European Roots (Appendix I) or the Appendix of Semitic Roots (Appendix II) at the end of the print version of the dictionary. Each appendix, arranged by root, provides further information on the reconstructed prehistory of the word back to the earliest stage ascertainable by comparative linguistics.


This dictionary contains four types of notes: Synonym Paragraphs, Usage Notes, Word Histories, & Our Living Language Notes. An explanation of each type follows.

Synonym Paragraphs.

Synonyms of special interest are listed after the entry for the central word in the group. Synonym paragraphs are introduced by the heading Synonyms. There are two kinds of synonym paragraphs. The first consists of a group of undiscriminated, alphabetically ordered words sharing a single, irreducible meaning. These synonyms are presented in illustrative examples following a vi xử lý core definition. Antonyms often appear at the end of the paragraph. An example of an undiscriminated synonym paragraph appears at the entry for plentiful.

The second kind of paragraph consists of fully discriminated synonyms ordered in a way that reflects their interrelationships. A brief sentence explaining the initial point of comparison of the words is given, followed by explanations of their connotations & varying shades of meaning, along with illustrative examples. An example of a discriminated synonym paragraph appears at the entry for real1.

Every synonym in a synonym paragraph is cross-referenced to lớn that synonym paragraph. Sometimes a word is discussed in more than one synonym paragraph. Cross-references are given to lớn all the synonym paragraphs that include this word.

Usage Notes.

The Usage Notes following many entries present important information và guidance on matters of grammar, diction, pronunciation, and registers and nuances of usage. For a detailed discussion of usage và our Usage Panel, see Steven Pinker’s essay “Usage in The American Heritage Dictionary” on pages xvi-xix in the print version of the dictionary.

Many notes, such as those at epicenter và factoid, contain opinions of the Usage Panel about the acceptability or conventionality of words, especially as used in formal standard English contexts. Others, such as those at criterion and principal, are more explanatory in nature & do not refer khổng lồ Panel opinions. Entries of words discussed in the notes have cross-references to the entry at which the note appears. If an entry that has a cảnh báo is discussed in a cảnh báo at another entry, the cross-reference to that entry is given immediately following the Usage Note.

Word Histories.

In addition to etymologies, which necessarily contain information in a compressed form, this dictionary provides Word History paragraphs at entries whose etymologies are of particular interest. In these notes, the bare facts of the etymology are expanded lớn give a fuller understanding of how important linguistic processes operate, how words move from one language khổng lồ another, & how the history of an individual word can be related lớn historical and cultural developments. For example, the Word History for sacrum discusses how the word comes from a Latin phrase meaning “holy bone.” The note also explains how the Romans acquired the idea that the sacrum was sacred from the Greeks and how the notion of the bone’s sacredness arose among the Greeks.

Our Living Language Notes.

Language varies both by region và social group, and this dictionary contains notes that discuss these aspects of words. Some of these words và constructions fall outside standard usage. But most are widely recognized for their cultural importance & for their expressivity, & some have been incorporated into the standard language. For a discussion of social variation in English, see John R. Rickford’s essay “Variation và Change in Our Living Language” on pages xiii-xv in the print version of the dictionary.

Some notes discuss regional words, words used chiefly in a single area or region of the United States. For example, the word dragonfly is widespread in American English, but there are many dialect terms for the insect as well. These terms are listed at the entry for dragonfly và discussed in the cảnh báo at the kết thúc of the entry. Other notes, such as those at be và zero copula, explain the patterns of usage of particular constructions and describe the linguistic situations under which they are và are not used, in order to show how they fit into the broader phenomenon of language. Still other notes, such as those at comparative and mine2, explain the linguistic processes governing certain constructions that might at first appear to lớn be errors or anomalies, relating such constructions to lớn similar examples in earlier times và showing them to have traveled a different path from their standard counterparts for centuries. Still other notes, such as those at cool, và schlock describe groups of words that have arisen from the lingo of particular subcultures, such as jazz musicians or speakers of Yiddish.