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

sweep (swēp)
v. swept (swĕpt), sweep·ing, sweeps
1. To clean or clear, as of dirt, with a broom or brush: sweep a chimney.
2. To clear away with a broom or brush: swept snow from the steps.
3. To clear (a path or space) with a broom or brush.
a. To search thoroughly: The counselors swept the dormitory during the fire drill.
b. To search for and remove (electronic eavesdropping devices) from a place: swept the room for bugs.
5. To touch or brush lightly, as with a trailing garment: willow branches sweeping the ground.
6. To pass over or through a surface or medium with a continuous movement: He swept the sponge over the tile. The conductor swept her baton through the air.
7. To clear, drive, or convey with relentless force: The flood waters swept away everything in their path.
8. To wipe out at a single stroke. Often used with away: The incident in effect swept away all her dreams.
9. To remove or carry off with a swift brushing motion: swept the cards off the table; swept the child into his arms.
10. To move across or through swiftly or broadly: News of the lunar landing swept the country.
11. To pass quickly across, as when searching: His gaze swept the horizon.
12. To drag the bottom of (a body of water).
a. To win all games in (a series) or all stages of (a contest): swept the World Series.
b. To win overwhelmingly in: The opposition party swept the election.
1. To clean or clear a surface with a broom or brush.
a. To search an area for something.
b. To search for and remove electronic eavesdropping devices.
3. To move swiftly or broadly: The wind swept over the plain.
4. To move swiftly in a lofty manner, as if in a trailing robe: She swept by in silence.
5. To trail, as a long garment.
6. To extend gracefully, especially in a long curve: The hills sweep down to the sea.
7. To extend in a wide range: Searchlights swept across the sky.
1. A clearing out or removal with a broom or brush.
a. A thorough search of an area: a police sweep for drug dealers.
b. A search for and removal of electronic eavesdropping devices, as in a room.
a. A wide curving motion: a sweep of the arm.
b. A curve or contour that resembles the path of sweeping motion: the sweep of her hair.
4. An extent or stretch: a sweep of green lawn.
5. Range or scope: the broad sweep of history. See Synonyms at range.
6. Football An end run in which one or more linemen leave the line of scrimmage and block in advance of the ball carrier.
7. One who sweeps, especially a chimney sweep.
8. sweeps Sweepings.
a. The winning of all stages of a game or contest.
b. An overwhelming victory or success.
10. A long oar used to propel a boat.
11. A long pole attached to a pivot and used to raise or lower a bucket in a well.
12. sweeps (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Informal Sweepstakes.
a. sweeps The period each fall, winter, and spring when television ratings are accrued and studied and advertising rates are reset.
b. The national survey of local stations that is conducted to determine these ratings.
14. The steady motion of an electron beam across a cathode-ray tube.
sweep (someone) off (someone's) feet
To cause someone to be admiring or infatuated.
sweep under the rug
To avoid discussing or dealing with (something negative or troubling).

[Middle English swepen, perhaps from swepe, past tense of swopen, to sweep along; see SWOOP.]

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.