Cover image for The American Heritage dictionary of the English language.
The American Heritage dictionary of the English language.
Fourth edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxxvii, 2074 pages : illustrations (some color), color maps ; 29 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Reference
Angola Public Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Clarence Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
East Aurora Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Eggertsville-Snyder Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Grand Island Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Lake Shore Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Marilla Free Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Frank E. Merriweather Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Frank E. Merriweather Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Anna M. Reinstein Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
Audubon Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference Desk
Audubon Library PE1628 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The all-new Fourth Edition of the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language offers more information about the language, in a more accessible format, than any other dictionary in its class. And its elegant, inviting design makes it the most handsome reference book on the market.

The Editors of the American Heritage® Dictionary have added over 10,000 new words and senses. From slang and popular culture to the latest medical, high-tech, and scientific terms, the Fourth Edition's vocabulary has been thoroughly updated to reflect our constantly changing language.

Fresh, full-color design. Over 4,000 full-color photographs, drawings, and maps enhance the American Heritage® Dictionary's definitions and make browsing irresistible.

Trustworthy usage guidance. The American Heritage® Dictionary has distinguished itself for decades by offering clear and comprehensive usage guidance. Hundreds of new and updated Usage Notes, based on the results of surveys sent to the more than 200 scholars and writers who comprise our Usage Panel, help you make informed decisions about usage questions you face every day.

More in-depth note features than any other dictionary. Word Histories, Synonym Paragraphs, and Regional Notes explore the language in a breadth and depth unequaled by any other dictionary.

All-new Our Living Language Notes. A fascinating new series of Notes illustrates how social factors such as age and ethnicity influence the way our language is shaped by speakers from all walks of life.

Unrivaled biographies and geographies. The American Heritage® Dictionary has long been known for its expansive treatment of biographical and geographical entries. These informative capsule summaries have been thoroughly updated for the Fourth Edition.

Two unique Appendixes. Discover the hidden connections between words in the newly expanded Appendix of Indo-European Roots and in the all-new Appendix of Semitic Roots. The American Heritage® Dictionary offers you the most thorough and intriguing view of the history of words to be found in any dictionary.

Author Notes

The Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries are a team of professional lexicographers with advanced degrees in various scholarly fields. The editors familiarize themselves with the vocabulary in specific subject areas, collect materials on new developments and usage, and work with expert consultants to ensure that our publications are accurate and up-to-date.

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

Ever since the furor in the U.S. that greeted Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961) faded, it has become a given that dictionaries should be descriptive rather than prescriptive, a principle sanctified in Britain in the 1850s in Herbert Coleridge's original plan for the monumental project that eventually produced the Oxford English Dictionary. That dictionaries grow by gradual accretion of new words and new senses characterizes the latest edition of the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD), even if it, more than any other contemporary English-language dictionary, flirts with prescriptiveness in some of its usage notes. Reflecting trends in society since publication of the third edition (1992), the most visible additions to the lexicon come from technology. Hence AHD now includes the sense of dot as a synonym for period in computer jargon; a new techie sense for geek; and new entries for dot-com, e-commerce, HTML, HTTP, and URL. These are but a few of the 10,000 new senses or terms incorporated into this edition. Others (e.g., goth, personal watercraft, transgendered) come from the fields of pop culture, entertainment, sports, and business, to name a few. AHD shows two other, much more visible signs of its times. First, the thumbnail marginal illustrations have been transformed from black-and-white to color. This increases their clarity, their utility, and the value they add to definitions. Second, it comes in both print and CD-ROM formats. The CD-ROM (for Windows 95 through 2000 and NT and available for $24.95 if purchased alone) offers content almost identical to that of the print volume and many added features. Some of the illustrations in the print edition are absent from the CD (e.g., mackinaw). This is a small sacrifice for the far greater gains, one of which relates to illustrations. A search feature allows users to display only those terms that contain illustrations, and when any of these is displayed, its thumbnail illustration can be enlarged, offering even greater clarity than the color thumbnails on paper. Other features of the CD-ROM make it an attractive alternative to print, especially for personal use in situations in which it can reside more or less permanently on a PC's CD-ROM drive. A running list of entries in a frame to the left of the display window provides, with much greater precision than the printed dictionary's thumb indexing, quick access to a letter's section. In addition to the word search and A^-Z scrolling display of all entries in that left-side window, the window's contents can be limited to display usage notes (usage, synonym, word histories, regional notes), Indo-European roots, Semitic roots, or (as noted) entries containing images. Most entries on the CD-ROM also include an audio icon that, when clicked, plays the word's pronunciation in an audible voice (for some words that of a male, for others that of a female). Just as the Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary allows a toolbar link from Microsoft Word to the dictionary's contents, AHD provides this linkage through a right-mouse click. One other feature demonstrates the dictionary's sense of its times in the age of Internet filters and Dr. Laura controversies: when loading the CD-ROM, the user is asked whether to load the dictionary to include or exclude access to "vulgar" words. This is a latter-day sign of AHD's long willingness to apply usage labels more freely than most of its competitors. Taken by themselves, its usage labels (e.g., "slang," "vulgar") unquestionably appear to be prescriptive. However, when viewed in the context of the dictionary's usage notes, they soften and take on nuance. The usage notes depend heavily upon a large panel of writers and commentators representing diverse views. (What other group can claim both Harold Bloom and Roy Blount Jr. and both Antonin Scalia and David Sedaris as members?) The notes convey the panel's uncertainties, disagreements, and qualifiers about how the words are and ought to be used. On the whole, AHD takes an old, inherently prescriptive dictionary device and uses it to describe the majority and minority opinions of a group of facile users of the language. A new category of notes, "Our Living Language," explains how language changes, for example, the reasons why the Ocracoke Island brogue is fading and the attempts to come up with euphemisms for the euphemism downsize. Approximately 1,800 notes of various sorts provide more context and more description than mere labels. When it comes to the things that users turn to a dictionary for most often--definitions, confirmation of spelling, pronunciation--AHD delivers as well as any other respected, respectable desk dictionary. Its definitions are clear and succinct, and they differentiate among senses of a word. Illustrations of words in sentences enhance selected definitions. A pronunciation key on every two-page spread of the print version is the next best thing to the audio on the CD-ROM. AHD long ago established itself as one of the standard American English dictionaries. Its improvements through expansion, refinement, and extension to the CD-ROM medium ensure its vitality and its value to a broad audience, from junior high on. --James Rettig

Publisher's Weekly Review

Since its 1969 first edition, the American Heritage has battled Webster's for desk, library and classroom space. Against its older rival, American Heritage boasts better looks, more frequent updates and a 200-member Usage Panel with verbal all-stars like novelists Alice Munro and Sherman Alexie. The third edition of the American Heritage appeared only in 1992; what's new about this edition? For one thing, 10,000 more words, frequently colloquial ones or new coinages; all dictionaries delete when they add, but here additions seem to outnumber cuts. Another new feature is color: with polychromatic photographs down broad margins, and entry words in greenish-black, the fourth edition looks like the well-dressed offspring of an older reference book and a Web siteÄan appearance likely to please younger users. The fourth does well with '90s cultural termsÄ"permatemp" and "McJob," "techno" and "indie" (rock). It's good with compounds, especially new onesÄ"celestial longitude," "jewel box" (for CDs), "crack baby," "poetry slam." Coverage of slang has also improved: the third made "dick" "a guy" and a male organ; the fourth gives the noun as an insult and five senses for "dick" as a verb. Occasional boxes offer long paragraphs on (for example) when and where "party" can mean "person," why the Usage Panel hates "hopefully," and the evolution of the word "circus." As in the third, a substantial appendix guides readers through Indo-European roots. American Heritage's examples and etymologies still can't compare to the Oxford English DictionaryÄnor should they. Instead, the volume strikes a commendable, practical balance between depth of coverage and ease of use. (The CD-ROM contains all the text of the bound book, with less art, but also the words retired from the third edition; it can be purchased separately for $24.95.) (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The new American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language updates the third edition (1992) with 10,000 new words and senses and 4000 illustrations (many now in color) in the spacious outer margins. New words include "anime," "carjacking," "DVD," "glass ceiling," and "mommy track." Many abbreviations now familiar in the online world, such as "BTW" (by the way) and "LOL" (laughing out loud), are also defined. Each entry contains the headword, pronunciation, part of speech, and definition. Over 700 words have synonym notes, over 400 words have usage notes, 200-plus words have word history notes, and more than 100 words have regional notes. Pronunciation guides are easily consulted since they are printed on the recto of every page. Definitions are clearly written. The usage notes are interesting but designed to be mini-critical lessons; they do not give quick and easy rules about usage. Regional notes also provide interesting information and background about specific words, but overall there are few of them. If you are looking for a reference work that provides histories and extensive information about usage, this is not the appropriate resource; Bryan A. Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (LJ 10/15/98) is an excellent guide to usage, and the Oxford English Dictionary remains the standard for the history of the English language. However, for libraries in need of a new English-language dictionary, with new words, that is clearly written and easy to use, this new edition is an excellent choice. Recommended for all libraries. (CD-ROM not seen.)DCynthia A. Johnson, Barnard Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Five hundred entries have been added to this update of the 2000 edition, bringing the total to 10,500. Many of the new words come from the fields of technology (blogosphere, Easter egg, LOL), current events (SARS, Amber Alert), and pop culture (speed dating, shout-out). The dictionary follows standard arrangement, but is enhanced by notes on usage, history, regionalisms, social aspects of language, and nuances of meaning, as well as illustrations (most in full color) and a pronunciation guide on every page. Proper names and famous people are also included, considerably expanding this book's usefulness. A solid, up-to-the-minute resource and a worthwhile purchase for libraries.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

Readers today want reputable, informative, and user-friendly reference sources; the fourth edition of this dictionary is all three. More than 10,000 new entries address recent vocabulary in fields related to information technology, medicine, business, and popular culture. Five types of descriptive notes cover synonyms, usage, word history, regionalisms, and "our living language." An expanded appendix of Indo-European roots and a new appendix of Semitic roots are included. The introduction of color in 4,000 drawings and photographs and the blue-green color of each headword make the dictionary attractive and easier to use. Like previous editions, it contains biographical and geographical entries, slang, and colloquial terms. Some may think that including slang and colloquial terminology weakens a dictionary's ability to validate proper usage, but their inclusion supports the editorial goal of providing a dictionary that traditionally and progressively captures the living language. A CD-ROM version, which can be purchased separately, has fewer illustrations, but readers gain interactive capabilities such as pronunciation and search features. At home or in the office or library, this edition is a pleasure to use. M. D. Collins; Mississippi State University

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