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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.
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 dialects
  • Birds develop song repertoires and song dialects-in short, they exhibit a birdsong culture that predates human culture by eons.
  • Different whale families have their own dialects and closely related families share calls.
  • Now here comes everybody, and they're bringing their own dialects to the online potlatch.
  • Thousands of languages and dialects are spoken around the globe.
  • He was fond of cliche, but only his own, and even the dialects of his conversation were polished.
  • They also learn to recognize the dialects of other pods.
  • Such studies of human movement could also shed light on the spread of disease and the origins of local dialects.
  • Numerous other tribal dialects are spoken by other minorities.
  • There is little if any communication between the two dialects.
  • Mutually incomprehensible dialects are indeed common, but this is normal considering the huge distances involved.
British Dictionary definitions for dialects


  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 dialects



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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