Linguistics. a variety of a language that is distinguished from other varieties of the same language by features of phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, and by its use by a group of speakers who are set off from others geographically or socially.
a provincial, rural, or socially distinct variety of a language that differs from the standard language, especially when considered as substandard.
a special variety of a language: The literary dialect is usually taken as the standard language.
a language considered as one of a group that have a common ancestor: Persian, Latin, and English are Indo-European dialects.
jargon or cant.

Origin of dialect

1545–55; < Latin dialectus < Greek diálektos discourse, language, dialect, equivalent to dialég(esthai) to converse (dia- dia- + légein to speak) + -tos verbal adjective suffix
Related formssub·di·a·lect, noun

Synonyms for dialect

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dialect

Contemporary Examples of dialect

Historical Examples of dialect

  • No; nor is the dialect of speech: both are characteristic and national distinctions.

  • Not only did his dialect differ from those about him, but his habits were not those of a woodsman.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • Phoebe in her earnestness forgot to keep within the limitations of their dialect.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • You know not how much you please me, that I can talk to you in this dialect.

    Clarissa, Volume 3 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • He prided himself on being able to speak the broadest of the dialect.

    Heather and Snow

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for dialect



  1. a form of a language spoken in a particular geographical area or by members of a particular social class or occupational group, distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation
  2. a form of a language that is considered inferiorthe farmer spoke dialect and was despised by the merchants
  3. (as modifier)a dialect word
Derived Formsdialectal, adjective

Word Origin for dialect

C16: from Latin dialectus, from Greek dialektos speech, dialect, discourse, from dialegesthai to converse, from legein to talk, speak
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for dialect

1570s, "form of speech of a region or group," from Middle French dialecte, from Latin dialectus "local language, way of speaking, conversation," from Greek dialektos "talk, conversation, speech;" also "the language of a country, dialect," from dialegesthai "converse with each other," from dia- "across, between" (see dia-) + legein "speak" (see lecture (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper