The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition


September 2000

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is the only reference tool of its kind to have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for four months. This Fourth Edition -- a milestone in the evolution of the English language -- combines exacting linguistic scholarship with creative innovations in the art of dictionary making. The addition of full-color illustrations and the usage advice of more than 200 ...
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September 2000

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is the only reference tool of its kind to have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for four months. This Fourth Edition -- a milestone in the evolution of the English language -- combines exacting linguistic scholarship with creative innovations in the art of dictionary making. The addition of full-color illustrations and the usage advice of more than 200 experts (including Joan Didion, Rita Dove, David Foster Wallace, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and John Kenneth Galbraith) gives English speakers all the resources they need to use the language with grace and accuracy.

With more than 4,000 full-color photographs and illustrations, innovative notes on regionalisms and language change, new and updated usage guidance from the leading authorities, and more than 10,000 new words and senses, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language represents the ultimate in lexical reference.

Discover the richness of the English language in ways you never have before, with The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, available in a book and CD-ROM package that includes more than 1,000 color photographs, illustrations, and maps from the print edition; nearly 70,000 spoken pronunciations, definitions, and usage information that can be obtained instantly by highlighting and right-clicking on words in any Microsoft Office application; a simple search feature to find the word you want (even if you don't know how to spell it); and separately searchable indexes of all images and note features.

History of The American Heritage Dictionary

The American Heritage Dictionary was conceived in the 1960s as an alterative to dictionaries that failed to provide clear guidance and labeling about usage and that were both difficult to use and unpleasant to read. The First Edition of the The American Heritage Dictionary did what no other dictionary had done. It offered usage guidance reflecting the opinions of a panel of distinguished writers, educators, and speakers. It recorded word histories, including Indo-European roots, in a manner that would be comprehensible to the general reader. It presented broader and clearer coverage of physical science and technology than its predecessors. And it was presented in an attractive design, using photographs, drawings, and maps for both editorial and illustrative purposes.

Since then the editors at Houghton Mifflin Company have upheld the high standards of The American Heritage Dictionary with each succeeding edition. The Second College Edition was published in 1982 with an updated vocabulary. It sold widely, especially on college campuses. The Third Edition, published in 1992, expanded the scope of the dictionary. It was hailed by The New York Times as "the most pleasurable dictionary ever published, and one of the most useful...more suited to our national character than any previous edition."

This Fourth Edition combines tradition with innovation in a work that is uniquely suited to American language and culture at the dawn of the 21st century. The Fourth Edition has been redesigned in full color for a new generation of visually sophisticated consumers. Its content is supported by the most detailed and up-to-date illustrations and photographs available today. It has a number of key editorial innovations that make it unlike any other dictionary: 10,000 new words and senses in all areas of endeavor, Usage Notes reflecting the latest opinions of the Usage Panel on both traditional and emerging usage issues, a new Appendix of Semitic Roots that ties together English words that have come to us through Semitic languages, and a new series of notes addressing the social dimension of language variation and change. The Fourth Edition thus represents a further step in the American Heritage tradition, presenting the very best lexical scholarship in a dictionary that is inviting and accessible to the general reader.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
As timely as it is timeless, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language offers the most information about our language in the most accessible style and the most inviting design. The fourth edition combines exacting linguistic scholarship with creative innovations in the art of dictionary making. Whether it is the full-color illustration program, the usage advice of more than 200 experts -- including John Kenneth Galbraith, Rita Dove, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillin -- or the varied and extensive notes, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language gives you the resources you need to use the English language with accuracy and grace. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is once again setting the standard in dictionary making in both print and electronic format. It's no wonder it is called an American classic.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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 site--an appearance likely to please younger users. The fourth does well with '90s cultural terms--"permatemp" and "McJob," "techno" and "indie" (rock). It's good with compounds, especially new ones--"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 Dictionary--nor 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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
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.)--Cynthia A. Johnson, Barnard Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641851025
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 2112
  • Product dimensions: 8.92 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 2.58 (d)

Meet the Author

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 the content of our publications is as accurate and as up-to-date as possible.

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