Meaning of DIALECT in English

I. dialect noun

( -s )

Etymology: Greek dialektos debate, conversation, variety of language distinguished from other varieties of common origin

obsolete : dialectic I 1

II. di·a·lect ˈdīəˌlekt noun

( -s )

Usage: often attributive

Etymology: Middle French dialecte, from Latin dialectus, from Greek dialektos, from dialegesthai to converse — more at dialogue

1. : a variety of language that is used by one group of persons and has features of vocabulary, grammar, or pronunciation distinguishing it from other varieties used by other groups: as

a. : a local or regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other local or regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language of which no one variety is standard

the Attic, Ionic, Aeolic, and Doric dialects of ancient Greek

the Bavarian, Alemannic, and Franconian dialects of Old High German

b. : one of two or more cognate languages

French and Italian are Romance dialects

Russian and Bulgarian are Slavic dialects

English and Sanskrit are Indo-European dialects

c. : a local or regional variety of a language chiefly oral and orally transmitted and differing distinctively in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other local or regional varieties and from the standard language

the Lancashire dialect of English

the Neapolitan dialect of Italian

he knows the dialect of the southern mountains well

— see midland dialect , northern , southern ; compare idiolect ☞In this dictionary the label dial is dialect sense 1c and is affixed to words and senses to indicate, when in combination with a specific regional label, a specific regional pattern of use and, when unqualified, a regional pattern too complex for summary, usually including several regional varieties of American or of American and British English

d. : a variety of a language that is used by the members of an occupational group in speech or writing directly concerned with their occupation and that differs from other varieties of the same language chiefly or solely in containing technical terminology

the dialect of the atomic physicist

e. : a variety of a language ordinarily and habitually used by a group of persons whose identity is fixed by some factor other than geography (as social class

peasant dialect

educational level

he speaks and writes the standard dialect of his language

or first language

Italian-American dialect


2. : manner or means of expressing oneself especially in language or in one of the fine arts : phraseology , style

this book is writ in such a dialect as may the minds of listless men affect — John Bunyan

no composer of the first rank has been able to say all he wanted to without remolding the current musical language into at least a distinct dialect of his own to say it in — Gerald Abraham

3. : the features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation that distinguish a dialect (sense 1c or 1e) from the standard language

some playwrights use more dialect than others


patois , creole , jargon , lingo , slang , argot , cant , vernacular , patter , along with dialect , are used in different meanings with varying degrees of exactness and with dissimilar value judgments involved. dialect is often used to designate the regional forms of a language

Yorkshire dialect

the dialects of Texas

the following outline of Anglo-Saxon grammar is restricted to the West Saxon dialect — J.W.Bright

This word may or may not connote marked difference from a received standard language or marked preference for that received standard language. patois is likely to suggest a regional dialect, especially one used by the unlettered

the patois of the peasantry around Carcassonne

The word is of French origin and its use is likely to be more common in Romance language areas than elsewhere. creole is used mainly in reference to languages that come into existence when a politically or economically subordinate group adopts the language of a dominant group, usually with very considerable modification

the creole of Haiti

jargon may apply to a quickly evolved mixed linguistic form for simple communication between speakers of different languages, like Bêche-de-Mer or Pidgin English. jargon may also signify a phase of language containing an undue number of words unfamiliar to the average speaker

the technical jargons of sport — C.E.Montague

the proper meaning of jargon is writing that employs technical words not commonly intelligible — Ernest Gowers

lingo , a word more common in preceding centuries than now, is often derogatory and stresses the incomprehensibility of a strange language or unfamiliar phase of one's own language

a lingo that few people understand or care about — C.C.Furnas

slang is likely to indicate a complex of words and constructions preferred within a limited group, especially an informal one, to the standard language, and often more or less forceful or novel in their suggestion. argot sometimes refers specifically to the forms of speech used in criminal groups

the professional criminal speaks one or more argots in addition to colloquial English — D.W.Maurer

cant , which usually has derogatory implications, may be applied to the language of thieves and their companions, or to the special languages of artisans or even of learned or professional groups, especially if one wishes to riducule, although jargon is perhaps more common in designating the language of the latter.

the pseudoscientific cant which is talked about the “Baconian philosophy” — T.H.Huxley

vernacular , with less suggestion of the derogatory than the others in this group, denotes the simple, colloquial, everyday speech of the commoner in contrast to more bookish and erudite speech

his gumption, to use the vernacular word — William James

patter may suggest fast, glib, voluble speech, ostensibly spontaneous, to lull or deceive

the dispute resembles a conjuror's patter — its primary purpose is to divert attention from what is going on elsewhere — Economist

the patter of a professional guide — H.S.Canby

Synonym: see in addition language .

III. dialect noun

: a version of a computer programming language that differs from other versions of the same language only in minor ways

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.