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[dahy-uh-lekt] /ˈdaɪ əˌlɛkt/
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 forms
subdialect, noun
2. idiom, patois. See language. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for dialect
  • Calling a tongue a dialect implies that it is derived from and subordinated to a more formal language.
  • As students will notice at once, dialect and local color play no clear part in the humor of this story.
  • Some say that the distinction is one of mutual intelligibility: dialects are mutually understandable, languages are not.
  • Harris's stories are told in the Gullah dialect, often thought difficult by modern readers.
  • Culturally speaking, Mexico seems like a convoluted quilt of languages, dialects and customs.
  • Some of these poems were dramatic monologues, commonly in dialect; .
  • If this is how they "sound out" the word "masculine" I have to wonder what their dialect must be like.
  • Using Spanish colloquialisms and slang, this debut author pulls off the tricky task of dialect in a manner that feels authentic.
  • The list grew so rapidly that we realized we had a language, or at least a dialect, on our hands.
  • And ties of kin, clan or dialect ensure a high level of trust.
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 inferior: the farmer spoke dialect and was despised by the merchants
  3. (as modifier): a dialect word
Derived Forms
dialectal, adjective
Word Origin
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
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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
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