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

skin (skĭn)
1. The membranous tissue forming the external covering or integument of an animal and consisting in vertebrates of the epidermis and dermis.
2. An animal pelt, especially the comparatively pliable pelt of a small or young animal: a tent made of goat skins.
a. A usually thin, closely adhering outer layer: the skin of a peach; a sausage skin; the skin of an aircraft.
b. A thin, close-fitting, usually elastic garment, especially a shirt, worn by scuba divers and others who engage in water sports for protection against scrapes and other superficial injuries.
4. A container for liquids that is made of animal skin.
5. Music A drumhead.
6. One of a pair of strips of fabric or other material temporarily applied to the undersides of a pair of skis to provide traction while ascending slopes.
7. Computers A design layout for the interface of a program such as a media player or instant messaging application that a user can select and often customize in order to alter the default appearance.
8. Informal One's life or physical survival: They lied to save their skins.
v. skinned, skin·ning, skins
1. To remove skin from: skinned and gutted the rabbit.
2. To bruise, cut, or injure the skin or surface of: She skinned her knee.
3. To remove (an outer covering); peel off: skin off the thin bark.
4. To cover with a skin or a similar layer: skin the framework of a canoe.
5. Slang To fleece; swindle.
1. To become covered with skin or a similar layer: In January the pond skins over with ice.
2. To pass with little room to spare: We barely skinned by.
Of, relating to, or depicting pornography: skin magazines.
by the skin of (one's) teeth
By the smallest margin.
get under (someone's) skin
1. To irritate or stimulate; provoke.
2. To preoccupy someone; become an obsession.
have a thick skin
1. To be slow to take offense.
2. To be insensitive to the needs or concerns of others.
make (one's) skin/flesh crawl
To cause one to be afraid or disgusted.
under the skin
Beneath the surface; fundamentally: enemies who are really brothers under the skin.

[Middle English, from Old Norse skinn; see sek- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)
cross section of human skin
A. melanocyte
B. muscle
C. sebaceous gland
D. hair shaft
E. epidermis
F. dermis
G. subcutaneous tissue
H. fat
I. artery
J. sweat gland
K. hair follicle
L. Pacinian corpuscle

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.