use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

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

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. Annual surveys have gauged 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

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY BLOG

The articles in our blog examine new words, revised definitions, interesting images from the fifth edition, discussions of usage, and more.

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

staff 1 (stăf)
Share:
n. pl. staffs or staves (stāvz)
1.
a. A stick or cane carried as an aid in walking or climbing.
b. A stout stick used as a weapon; a cudgel.
c. A pole on which a flag is displayed; a flagstaff.
d. A rod or baton carried as a symbol of authority.
2. pl. staffs A rule or similar graduated stick used for testing or measuring, as in surveying.
3. pl. staffs
a. A group of assistants to a manager, executive, or other person in authority.
b. A group of military officers assigned to assist a commanding officer in an executive or advisory capacity.
c. The personnel who carry out a specific enterprise: the nursing staff of a hospital.
4. Something that serves as a staple or support.
5. Music A set of horizontal lines and intermediate spaces used in notation to represent a sequence of pitches, in modern notation normally consisting of five lines and four spaces. Also called stave.
tr.v. staffed, staff·ing, staffs
1. To provide with a staff of workers or assistants.
2. To serve on the staff of (an organization).

[Middle English staf, from Old English stæf.]
(click for a larger image)
staff1

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
staff 2 (stăf)
Share:
n.
A building material of plaster and fiber used as an exterior wall covering of temporary buildings, as at expositions.

[Perhaps from German Stoff, stuff.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 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.

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.