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!

when (wĕn, hwĕn)
Share:
adv.
At what time: When will we leave?
conj.
1. At the time that: in the spring, when the snow melts.
2. As soon as: I'll call you when I get there.
3. Whenever: When the wind blows, all the doors rattle.
4. During the time at which; while: When I was young, I was sick all the time.
5. Whereas; although: She stopped short when she ought to have continued.
6. Considering that; if: How can he get good grades when he won't study?
pron.
1. What or which time: Since when has this been going on?
2. At or during the time that: Where were you on the night when the murder took place?
n.
The time or date: Have they decided the where and when?

[Middle English, from Old English hwenne; see kwo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: In informal style when is often used after forms of be in definitions: A dilemma is when you don't know which way to turn. Although useful, this construction is widely regarded as incorrect or unsuitable for formal discourse. In formal style such definitions should be recast to eliminate is when, either by supplying a generic term that may be modified by a restrictive adjective clause (A dilemma is a situation in which you don't know which way to turn) or by making the when-clause adverbial (You are in a dilemma when you don't know which way to turn). When is acceptable, however, when a noun phrase that denotes a point in time is being defined or described: The best time to drink this tea is when you are sleepy.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 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.