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

par·ti·ci·ple (pärtĭ-sĭpəl)
A form of a verb that in some languages, such as English, can function independently as an adjective, as the past participle baked in We had some baked beans, and is used with an auxiliary verb to indicate tense, aspect, or voice, as the past participle baked in the passive sentence The beans were baked too long.

[Middle English, from Old French, variant of participe, from Latin participium (translation of Greek metokhē, sharing, partaking, participle), from particeps, particip-, partaker; see PARTICIPATE.]

Usage Note: Participial phrases such as walking down the street or having finished her homework are commonly used in English to modify nouns or pronouns, but care must be taken in incorporating such phrases into sentences. Readers will ordinarily associate a participle with the noun, noun phrase, or pronoun adjacent to it, and misplacement may produce comic effects as in He watched his horse take a turn around the track carrying a racing sheet under his arm. A correctly placed participial phrase leaves no doubt about what is being modified: Sitting at her desk, Jane read the letter carefully. · Another pitfall in using participial phrases is illustrated in the following sentence: Turning the corner, the view was quite different. Grammarians would say that such a sentence contains a "dangling participle" because there is no noun or pronoun in the sentence that the participial phrase can logically modify. Moving the phrase will not solve the problem (as it would in the sentence about the horse with a racing sheet). To avoid distracting the reader, it would be better to recast the sentence as When we turned the corner, the view was quite different or Turning the corner, we had a different view. · A number of expressions originally derived from participles have become prepositions, and these may be used to introduce phrases that are not associated with the immediately adjacent noun phrase. Such expressions include concerning, considering, failing, granting, judging by, and speaking of. Thus one may write without fear of criticism Speaking of politics, the elections have been postponed or Considering the hour, it is surprising that he arrived at all. See Note at very.

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.