noun, often attributive di·a·lect \ ˈdī-ə-ˌlekt \
|Updated on: 10 Aug 2018

Definition of dialect

1 linguistics
a : a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language
  • the Doric dialect of ancient Greek
  • a dialect of Chinese spoken in Hong Kong
b : one of two or more cognate (see 1cognate 3a) languages
  • French and Italian are Romance dialects
c : a variety of a language used by the members of a group
  • such dialects as politics and advertising
  • —Philip Howard
d : a variety of language whose identity is fixed by a factor other than geography (such as social class)
  • spoke a rough peasant dialect
e : register 4c
f : a version of a computer programming language
2 : manner or means of expressing oneself : phraseology


play \ˌdī-ə-ˈlek-tᵊl\ adjective


play \-tə-lē\ adverb

Examples of dialect in a Sentence

  1. They speak a southern dialect of French.

  2. The author uses dialect in his writing.

  3. The play was hard to understand when the characters spoke in dialect.

Recent Examples of dialect from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dialect.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Dialectic: Logic through Conversation

Dialectic is a term used in philosophy, and the fact that it is closely connected to the ideas of Socrates and Plato is completely logical—even from an etymological point of view. Plato’s famous dialogues frequently presented Socrates playing a leading role, and dialogue comes from the Greek roots dia- (“through” or “across”) and -logue (“discourse” or “talk”). Dialect and dialectic come from dialecktos (“conversation” or “dialect”) and ultimately back to the Greek word dialegesthai, meaning “to converse.”

Conversation or dialogue was indeed at the heart of the “Socratic method,” through which Socrates would ask probing questions which cumulatively revealed his students’ unsupported assumptions and misconceptions. The goal, according to the definition in our Unabridged Dictionary, was to “elicit a clear and consistent expression of something supposed to be implicitly known by all rational beings.”

Other philosophers had specific uses of the term dialectic, including Aristotelianism, Stoicism, Kantianism, Hegelianism, and Marxism. Asking a series of questions was considered by Socrates a method of “giving birth” to the truth, and a related word, maieutic, defined as “relating to or resembling the Socratic method of eliciting new ideas from another,” comes from the Greek word meaning “of midwifery.”

Origin and Etymology of dialect

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

Other Language Terms

DIALECT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of dialect for English Language Learners

  • : a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations

DIALECT Defined for Kids


noun di·a·lect \ ˈdī-ə-ˌlekt \

Definition of dialect for Students

: a form of a language that is spoken in a certain region or by a certain group

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