use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

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.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

branch (brănch)
Share:
n.
1.
a. A secondary woody stem or limb growing from the trunk or main stem of a tree or shrub or from another secondary limb.
b. A lateral division or subdivision of certain other plant parts, such as a root or flower cluster.
2. Something that resembles a branch of a tree, as in form or function, as:
a. A secondary outgrowth or subdivision of a main axis, such as the tine of a deer's antlers.
b. Anatomy An offshoot or a division of the main portion of a structure, especially that of a nerve, blood vessel, or lymphatic vessel; a ramus.
3. A limited part of a larger or more complex unit or system, especially:
a. An area of specialized skill or knowledge, especially academic or vocational, that is related to but separate from other areas: the judicial branch of government; the branch of medicine called neurology.
b. A division of a business or other organization.
c. A division of a family, categorized by descent from a particular ancestor.
d. Linguistics A subdivision of a family of languages, such as the Germanic branch of Indo-European.
4.
a. A tributary of a river.
b. Chiefly Southern US See creek. See Note at run.
c. A divergent section of a river, especially near the mouth.
5. Mathematics A part of a curve that is separated, as by discontinuities or extreme points.
6. Computers
a. A sequence of program instructions to which the normal sequence of instructions relinquishes control, depending on the value of certain variables.
b. The instructions executed as the result of such a passing of control.
7. Chemistry A bifurcation in a linear chain of atoms, especially in an organic molecule where isomeric hydrocarbon groups can vary in the location and number of these bifurcations of the carbon chain.
v. branched, branch·ing, branch·es
v.intr.
1. To put forth a branch or branches; spread by dividing.
2. To come forth as a branch or subdivision; develop or diverge from: an unpaved road that branches from the main road; a theory that branches from an older system of ideas.
3. Computers To relinquish control to another set of instructions or another routine as a result of the presence of a branch.
v.tr.
1. To separate (something) into branches.
2. To embroider (something) with a design of foliage or flowers.
Phrasal Verbs:
branch off
To diverge from a main body or path: a new faction that branched off from an established political party.
branch out
1. To develop branches or tributaries: a river that branches out into a delta.
2. To expand the scope of one's interests or activities: a knitter who branched out into crocheting.

[Middle English, from Old French branche, from Late Latin branca, paw, perhaps from Gaulish *branka; perhaps akin to Lithuanian ranka and Russian *ruka, hand.]

branchless adj.
branchy adj.

Synonyms: branch, arm1, fork, offshoot
These nouns denote something resembling or structurally similar to a limb of a tree: a branch of a railroad; an arm of the sea; the western fork of the river; an offshoot of a mountain range.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.