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!

prep·o·si·tion 1 (prĕpə-zĭshən)
Share:
n. Abbr. prep.
A word or phrase placed typically before a substantive and indicating the relation of that substantive to a verb, an adjective, or another substantive, as English at, by, with, from, and in regard to.

[Middle English preposicioun, from Old French preposicion, from Latin praepositiō, praepositiōn-, a putting before, preposition (translation of Greek prothesis), from praepositus, past participle of praepōnere, to put in front : prae-, pre- + pōnere, to put; see apo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: It was John Dryden who first promulgated the doctrine that a preposition may not be used at the end of a sentence, probably on the basis of a specious analogy to Latin. Grammarians in the 1700s refined the doctrine, and the rule became a venerated maxim of schoolroom grammar. There has been some retreat from this position in recent years, howeverwhat amounts to a recognition of the frequency with which prepositions end sentences in English. In fact, English syntax not only allows but sometimes even requires final placement of the preposition, as in We have much to be thankful for and That depends on what you believe in. Efforts to rewrite such sentences to place the preposition elsewhere can have stilted and even comical results, as is demonstrated in the saying (often attributed, probably falsely, to Winston Churchill) "This is the kind of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put." · Even sticklers for the traditional rule can have no grounds for criticizing sentences such as I don't know where she will end up and It's the most curious book I've ever run across. In these examples, up and across are adverbs (or more properly, what linguists call particles), not prepositions. One sure sign that this is so is that these examples cannot be transformed into sentences with prepositional phrases. It is simply not grammatical English to say I don't know up where she will end and It's the most curious book across which I have ever run.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
pre·po·si·tion 2 also pre-po·si·tion (prēpə-zĭshən)
Share:
tr.v. pre·po·si·tioned, pre·po·si·tion·ing, pre·po·si·tions also pre-po·si·tioned or pre-po·si·tion·ing or pre-po·si·tions
To position or place in position in advance: artillery that was prepositioned at strategic points in the desert.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 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.