use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

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

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. Annual surveys have gauged 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

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

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

scroll-icon

THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY BLOG

The articles in our blog examine new words, revised definitions, interesting images from the fifth edition, discussions of usage, and more.

100-words-icon

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

Find out more!

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

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

file 1 (fīl)
Share:
n.
1. A container, such as a cabinet or folder, for keeping papers in order.
2. A collection of papers or published materials kept or arranged in convenient order.
3. Computers A collection of data or program records stored as a unit with a single name.
4.
a. A line of persons, animals, or things positioned one behind the other.
b. A line of troops or military vehicles so positioned.
5. Games Any of the rows of squares that run forward and backward between players on a playing board in chess or checkers.
6. Archaic A list or roll.
v. filed, fil·ing, files
v.tr.
1. To put or keep (papers, for example) in useful order for storage or reference.
2. To enter (a legal document) as an official record.
3. To send or submit (copy) to a newspaper.
4. To initiate (a lawsuit): file a complaint; file charges.
v.intr.
1. To march or walk in a line.
2. To put items in a file.
3. To make application; apply: filed for a job with the state; file for a divorce.
4. To enter one's name in a political contest: filed for Congress.
Idiom:
on file
In or as if in a file for easy reference: We will keep your résumé on file.

[From Middle English filen, to put documents on file, from Old French filer, to spin thread, to put documents on a thread, from Late Latin fīlāre, to spin, draw out in a long line, from Latin fīlum, thread; see gwhī- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
file 2 (fīl)
Share:
n.
1. Any of several hardened steel tools with cutting ridges for forming, smoothing, or reducing especially metallic surfaces.
2. A nail file.
3. Chiefly British A crafty or artful person.
tr.v. filed, fil·ing, files
To smooth, reduce, or remove with or as if with a file.

[Middle English, from Old English fīl; see peig- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)
file2
left to right: double-cut flat file, single-cut round file, and single-cut half-round file

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
file 3 (fīl)
Share:
tr.v. filed, fil·ing, files
Archaic
To sully or defile.

[Middle English filen, from Old English fȳlan; see p- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
fi·lé (fēlā, fĭ-lā)
Share:
n.
Powdered sassafras leaves used to thicken and season soups, stews, and gumbos.

[Louisiana French, from French, past participle of filer, to spin thread (from its effect when added to hot liquids), from Old French; see FILE1.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 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.

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.