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

brace (brās)
1. A device that holds or fastens two or more parts together or in place; a clamp.
2. A device, such as a supporting beam in a building or a connecting wire or rope, that steadies or holds something else erect.
3. braces Chiefly British Suspenders.
4. An orthopedic appliance used to support, align, or hold a bodily part in the correct position.
5. often braces A dental appliance constructed of bands and wires that is fixed to the teeth to correct irregular alignment.
6. An extremely stiff, erect posture.
7. A cause or source of renewed physical or spiritual vigor.
8. A protective pad strapped to the bow arm of an archer.
9. Nautical A rope by which a yard is swung and secured on a square-rigged ship.
10. A cranklike handle with an adjustable aperture at one end for securing and turning a bit.
11. Music A leather loop that slides to change the tension on the cord of a drum.
12. Music
a. A vertical line, usually accompanied by the symbol {, connecting two or more staffs.
b. A set of staffs connected in this way.
13. A symbol, { or }, enclosing two or more lines of text or listed items to show that they are considered as a unit.
14. Mathematics Either of a pair of symbols, { }, used to indicate aggregation or to clarify the grouping of quantities when parentheses and square brackets have already been used. Also called bracket.
15. pl. brace A pair of like things: three brace of partridges.
v. braced, brac·ing, brac·es
1. To furnish with a brace.
2. To support or hold steady with or as if with a brace; reinforce.
3. To prepare or position so as to be ready for impact or danger: Union members braced themselves for a confrontation with management.
4. To confront with questions or requests.
5. To increase the tension of.
6. To invigorate; stimulate: "The freshness of the September morning inspired and braced him" (Thomas Hardy).
7. Nautical To turn (the yards of a ship) by the braces.
To get ready; make preparations.
Phrasal Verb:
brace up
To summon one's strength or endurance.

[Middle English, from Old French, the two arms, from Vulgar Latin *bracia, from Latin bracchia, brāchia, pl. of bracchium, brāchium, arm, from Greek brakhīōn, upper arm; see mregh-u- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots. V., partly from Old French bracier, from Old French brace, the two arms.]
(click for a larger image)
top: knee brace
bottom: orthodontic braces
(click for a larger image)

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.