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  1. 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.
  2. a provincial, rural, or socially distinct variety of a language that differs from the standard language, especially when considered as substandard.
  3. a special variety of a language: The literary dialect is usually taken as the standard language.
  4. a language considered as one of a group that have a common ancestor: Persian, Latin, and English are Indo-European dialects.
  5. jargon or cant.
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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

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for dialect

patois, vocabulary, language, accent, idiom, pronunciation, vernacular, lingo, tongue, jargon, terminology, slang, patter, argot, cant, provincialism, localism, regionalism

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
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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.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper