noun, often attributive
di·​a·​lect | \ˈdī-ə-ˌlekt \

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 cognate entry 1 sense 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 sense 4c

f : a version of a computer programming language

2 : manner or means of expressing oneself : phraseology

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from dialect

dialectal \ˌdī-​ə-​ˈlek-​tᵊl \ adjective
dialectally \-​tə-​lē \ adverb

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.”

Examples of dialect in a Sentence

They speak a southern dialect of French. The author uses dialect in his writing. The play was hard to understand when the characters spoke in dialect.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Francesca Orsi, HBO’s co-head of drama, understood specifically that this story could not be told in anything other than Neapolitan dialect. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "My Brilliant Friend: Everything We Know About HBO's Elena Ferrante Adaptation," 26 July 2018 See: Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow's British twinges and, more recently, Lindsay Lohan's bizarre, vaguely Eastern European dialect. Andrea Park, Glamour, "People Are Now Even More Convinced That Meghan Markle Has Taken on a Slight British Accent," 26 Sep. 2018 See: Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow's British twinges and Lindsay Lohan's vaguely Eastern European dialect that popped up a couple years ago. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "People Think Meghan Markle Is Speaking with a British Accent," 26 Sep. 2018 Every state has a different written and spoken language—not a dialect. Brooke Hauser, Marie Claire, "Priyanka Chopra on Being a Working Immigrant," 23 Aug. 2018 And many migrants from the highlands of Guatemala, where several dialects are spoken, do not speak Spanish. Miriam Jordan, The Seattle Times, "More than 450 migrant parents may have been deported without their children," 24 July 2018 There have been numerous incarnations of the cartoon dubbed in Chinese dialects as well as a craze for everything from Peppa Pig temporary tattoos to candy-dispenser watches and, soon, even theme parks. Amy Qin, New York Times, "Latest Threat to China: Peppa Pig, Countercultural Cartoon Character," 1 May 2018 One rebel commander said that Syrians with the regime told them that fighters are speaking in a Lebanese dialect of Arabic and in Farsi. Raja Abdulrahim, WSJ, "Iran-Backed Fighters Switch to Syrian Uniforms to Avoid Israeli Strikes, Rebels Say," 8 June 2018 Stallworth can instantly switch between dialects, something many people of color might find familiar. Sonia Rao, chicagotribune.com, "'What's up with that white voice?': The tricky art of linguistic code-switching," 14 July 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of dialect

1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dialect

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dialect

Statistics for dialect

Last Updated

30 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dialect

The first known use of dialect was in 1566

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dialect



English Language Learners Definition of dialect

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


di·​a·​lect | \ˈdī-ə-ˌlekt \

Kids Definition of dialect

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on dialect

What made you want to look up dialect? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!