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

hand (hănd)
a. The terminal part of the human arm located below the forearm, used for grasping and holding and consisting of the wrist, palm, four fingers, and an opposable thumb.
b. A homologous or similar part in other animals, as the terminal part of the forelimb in certain vertebrates.
2. A unit of length equal to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters), used especially to specify the height of a horse.
3. Something suggesting the shape or function of the human hand, especially:
a. Any of the rotating pointers used as indexes on the face of a mechanical clock.
b. A pointer, as on a gauge or dial.
4. Printing See index.
5. Lateral direction indicated according to the way in which one is facing: at my right hand.
a. A style or individual sample of writing.
b. A signature: put my hand to the contract.
7. A round of applause to signify approval.
8. Physical assistance; help: gave me a hand with the bags.
9. hands Sports A hand ball in soccer.
10. Games
a. The cards held in a card game by a given player at any time.
b. The number of cards dealt each player; the deal.
c. A player or participant in a card game: We need a fourth hand for bridge.
d. A portion or section of a game during which all the cards dealt out are played: a hand of poker.
a. One who performs manual labor: a factory hand.
b. One who is part of a group or crew: the ship's hands.
12. A participant in an activity, often one who specializes in a particular activity or pursuit: an old hand at labor negotiations.
a. The degree of immediacy of a source of information; degree of reliability: heard the scandalous tale at third hand.
b. The strength or force of one's position: negotiated from a strong hand.
a. often hands Possession, ownership, or keeping: The books should be in your hands by noon.
b. Power; jurisdiction; care: The defendant's fate is in the hands of the jury. Dinner is in the chef's hands.
a. Involvement or participation: "In all this was evident the hand of the counterrevolutionaries" (John Reed).
b. An influence or effect: The manager had a hand in all major decisions.
c. Evidence of craft or artistic skill: can see the hand of a genius even in the lighter poems.
16. An aptitude or ability: I tried my hand at decorating.
17. The aesthetic feel or tactile quality of something, such as a fabric, textile, or carpeting, that indicates its fineness, texture, and durability.
18. A manner or way of performing something: a light hand with makeup.
a. Permission or a promise, especially a pledge to wed.
b. A commitment or agreement, especially when sealed by a handshake; one's word: You have my hand on that.
v. hand·ed, hand·ing, hands
1. To give or pass with or as if with the hands; transmit: Hand me your keys.
2. To aid, direct, or conduct with the hands: The usher handed the patron to a reserved seat.
3. Nautical To roll up and secure (a sail); furl.
4. Sports
a. To give (the ball) directly to a teammate, as in football. Often used with off.
b. To carry, strike, or propel (the ball) with the hand or arm in violation of the rules in soccer.
To make a handoff, as in football. Often used with off.
Phrasal Verbs:
hand down
1. To bequeath to one's heirs.
2. To make and pronounce (an official decision, especially a court verdict).
hand on
To turn over to another.
hand out
1. To distribute freely; disseminate.
2. To administer or deal out.
hand over
To release or relinquish to another.
hand up
To deliver (an indictment) to a higher judicial authority.
at hand
1. Close by; near.
2. Soon in time; imminent: Retribution is at hand.
3. Under discussion: Let's keep to the matter at hand.
at the hand/hands of
By or through the agency of: favors he received at the hands of his uncle.
by hand
By using the hands; manually.
get/lay (one's) hands on
To get possession of; acquire or obtain.
hand and foot
With concerted, never-ending effort:had to wait on them hand and foot.
hand in/and glove
On intimate terms or in close association: "The folklore of American academia says that publishing and teaching go hand in glove" (Edward B. Fiske).
hand in hand
In cooperation; jointly.
hand it to Informal
To give credit to: You've got to hand it to her; she knows what she's doing.
hand over fist
At a tremendous rate: made money hand over fist.
hands down
1. With no trouble; easily.
2. Indisputably; unquestionably.
in hand
1. In one's possession: arrived with the contract in hand.
2. Under control: kept the tense situation in hand.
3. Under consideration: gave her attention to the matter in hand.
4. In preparation or process: With the work finally in hand, we began to see progress.
5. Sports Remaining to be played by one team but not by another: Their team is ahead in the standings, but our team has two games in hand.
off (one's) hands
No longer under one's jurisdiction, within one's responsibility, or in one's care: We finally got that project off our hands.
on hand
1. Present; available: Are there enough people on hand to hold a meeting?
2. About to happen; imminent: What is on hand for this evening?
on/upon (one's) hands
In one's possession, often as an imposed responsibility or burden: Now they have the grandchildren on their hands.
on one/the one hand
As one point of view; from one standpoint.
on the other hand
As another point of view; from another standpoint.
out of hand
1. Out of control: Employee absenteeism has gotten out of hand.
2. Without consideration; immediately: dismissed my complaint out of hand.
to hand
1. Nearby.
2. In one's possession.

[Middle English, from Old English.]

(click for a larger image)
A. phalanges
B. metacarpals
C. carpals

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Hand (hănd), (Billings) Learned 1872-1961.
American jurist. During his career as a federal judge (1924-1951) his influence was so great that he was sometimes called the "tenth man" of the US Supreme Court.

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.