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!

li·on (līən)
Share:
n.
1. A large carnivorous feline mammal (Panthera leo) of Africa and northwest India, having a short tawny coat, a tufted tail, and, in the male, a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders.
2. A mountain lion.
3.
a. A very brave person.
b. A person regarded as fierce or savage.
c. A noted person; a celebrity: a literary lion.
4. Lion See Leo.
Idiom:
lion's share
The greatest or best part.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin leō, leōn-, from Greek leōn, of Semitic origin; see lbʾ in the Appendix of Semitic roots.]

Word History: Old French lion is the source of English lion, and the Old French word comes from Latin leō, leōnis. The Latin word is related somehow to Greek leōn, leontos (earlier *lewōn, *lewontos), which appears in the name of the Spartan king Leonidas, "Lion's son," who perished at Thermopylae. The Greek word is somehow related to Coptic labai, laboi, "lioness." In turn, Coptic labai is borrowed from a Semitic source related to Hebrew lābī' and Akkadian labbu. There is also a native ancient Egyptian word, rw (where r can stand for either r or l and vowels were not indicated), which is surely related as well. Since lions were native to Africa, Asia, and Europe in ancient times (Aristotle tells us there were lions in Macedon in his day), we have no way of ascertaining who borrowed which word from whom.
(click for a larger image)
lion
male (left) and female (right) lions
Panthera leo

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 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.