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!

mor·tar (môrtər)
Share:
n.
1. A vessel in which substances are crushed or ground with a pestle.
2. A machine in which materials are ground and blended or crushed.
3.
a. A portable, usually muzzleloading cannon used to fire shells at low velocities, short ranges, and high trajectories.
b. A shell fired by such a cannon.
c. Any of several similar devices, such as one that shoots life lines across a stretch of water.
d. A short, usually stationary, muzzleloading cannon used from the 1700s to early 1900s to fire large round shells at low velocities, short ranges, and high trajectories.
4. Any of various bonding materials used in masonry, surfacing, and plastering, especially a mixture of cement or lime, sand, and water that hardens in place and is used to bind together bricks or stones.
tr.v. mor·tared, mor·tar·ing, mor·tars
1. To bombard with mortar shells.
2. To plaster or join with mortar.

[Middle English morter, from Old English mortere and from Old French mortier, both from Latin mortārium; see mer- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)
mortar
mortar (background) and pestle (foreground)

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.