What Is DARE?

The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a multi-volume reference work that documents words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary from one place to another place across the United States.

Challenging the popular notion that our language has been “homogenized” by the media and our mobile population, DARE demonstrates that there are many thousands of differences that characterize the dialect regions of the U.S.

DARE is based on face-to-face interviews carried out in all 50 states between 1965 and 1970 and on a comprehensive collection of written materials (diaries, letters, novels, histories, biographies, newspapers, government documents, etc.) that cover our history from the colonial period to the present.

The entries in DARE include regional pronunciations, variant forms, some etymologies, and regional and social distributions of the words and phrases.

A striking feature of DARE is its inclusion in the text of the Dictionary of selected maps that show where words were found in the 1,002 communities investigated during the fieldwork.

VISION—Because a full understanding of the richness and diversity of American culture is dependent upon a comprehensive record of the language of our people, we envision an ongoing reference work that reflects the varied roots, regions, and customs of Americans throughout our history and traces the continuing changes in our language. The six print volumes (Harvard University Press, 1985–2013) having already become the recognized authority on American English, we anticipate that the digital edition will be even more widely used and regarded as a national treasure.

MISSION—DARE, a long-term project that documents the words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary from region to region in the United States, will launch an electronic version that will be updated regularly, to encourage the use of this unique reference work by scholars, researchers, and others who love language. In order to track the changes in American English over the last half century, DARE staff plan to initiate a new round of nationwide fieldwork. Rather than conduct traditional face-to-face interviews, the project will utilize the expertise and experience of the UW Survey Center to plan and administer an online Questionnaire.