[ ing-glish or, often, -lish ]

  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of England or its inhabitants, institutions, etc.

  2. belonging or relating to, or spoken or written in, the English language: a high school English class;an English translation of a Spanish novel.

  1. of or relating to a person or thing that is not Amish, generally used by Amish people in Anglophone North America: The Amish rarely celebrate English holidays like Labor Day.He fixed a rabbit hutch for his English neighbor.

  1. (used with a plural verb) the people of England collectively, especially as distinguished from the Scots, Welsh, and Irish.

  2. the Germanic language of England, widespread and standard also in the United States, Canada, and other countries colonized or settled by England, historically termed Old English (c450–c1150), Middle English (c1150–c1475), and Modern English (after c1475). Abbreviation: E

  1. English language, composition, and literature as offered as a course of study in school.

  2. a specific variety of the English language, as that of a particular time, place, or person: Shakespearean English;American English.

  3. simple, straightforward language: What does all that jargon mean in English?

  4. Sports.(sometimes lowercase)

    • a spinning motion imparted to a ball, especially in billiards.

  5. Printing. a 14-point type of a size between pica and Columbian.

  6. a grade of calendered paper having a smooth matte finish.

  7. (used with a plural verb) people who are not Amish, generally used by Amish people in Anglophone North America: More Amish than English live in this county.

verb (used with object)
  1. to translate into English: to English Euripides.

  2. to adopt (a foreign word) into English; Anglicize.

  1. (sometimes lowercase)Sports. to impart spin to (a ball).

Origin of English

First recorded before 900; Middle English; Old English Englisc, equivalent to Engle (plural) “the English” (compare Latin Anglī “the Angles,” a branch of the Suevians + -isc; see origin at Angle, Anglic, -ish1

Other words from English

  • Eng·lish·ness, noun
  • an·ti-Eng·lish, adjective
  • half-Eng·lish, adjective
  • non-Eng·lish, adjective, noun
  • pre-Eng·lish, adjective
  • pro-Eng·lish, adjective
  • pseu·do-Eng·lish, adjective
  • qua·si-Eng·lish, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use English in a sentence

  • In one respect her Englishness of accent was less an imitation or an affectation than a certain form of politeness and modesty.

    The Cup of Fury | Rupert Hughes
  • The intense Englishness of them hit one in the face like a well-directed blow from a powerful fist.

    In the Wilderness | Robert Hichens
  • He was still looking at her, as if in enjoyment of the Englishness and freshness of which he had spoken.

    With Edged Tools | Henry Seton Merriman
  • All that is most characteristic of Tennyson, even his Englishness, is gathered up in this poem of six stanzas.

  • Democracy in England has been the chief representative of veritable Englishness up to these days.

British Dictionary definitions for English


/ (ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ) /

  1. the official language of Britain, the US, most parts of the Commonwealth, and certain other countries. It is the native language of over 280 million people and is acquired as a second language by many more. It is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Germanic branch: See also Middle English, Old English, Modern English

  2. the English (functioning as plural) the natives or inhabitants of England collectively

  1. (formerly) a size of printer's type approximately equal to 14 point

  2. an old style of black-letter typeface

  3. (often not capital) the usual US and Canadian term for side (def. 16)

  1. denoting, using, or relating to the English language

  2. relating to or characteristic of England or the English

  1. archaic to translate or adapt into English: Related prefix: Anglo-

Derived forms of English

  • Englishness, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with English


see body English; in plain English.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.