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[noun, verb koun-ter-sahyn; verb koun-ter-sahyn] /noun, verb ˈkaʊn tərˌsaɪn; verb ˌkaʊn tərˈsaɪn/
a sign used in reply to another sign.
Military. a secret sign that must be given by authorized persons seeking admission through a guarded area.
a signature added to another signature, especially for authentication.
verb (used with object)
to sign (a document that has been signed by someone else), especially in confirmation or authentication.
Origin of countersign
1585-95; counter- + sign, modeled on Middle French contresigne, or its source, Old Italian contrasegno Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for countersign
Historical Examples
  • “Advance, friend, and give the countersign,” was the command.

    The Dare Boys of 1776 Stephen Angus Cox
  • Every now and then, when challenged, she mechanically repeated the countersign.

    The Traitors

    E. Phillips (Edward Phillips) Oppenheim
  • Going up to the sentinel, I told him who we were, and that we had not the countersign.

    The Citizen-Soldier John Beatty
  • Their concluding words had evidently been some form of sign and countersign.

    A Study In Scarlet Arthur Conan Doyle
  • We had no countersign, but I immediately ran the boat ashore, and we landed.

    Field and Forest Oliver Optic
  • Advance, friend in a tremendous hurry, and give the countersign.

    Field and Forest Oliver Optic
  • And what to these ministers do but countersign the signature of the king?

    The Man in the Iron Mask Alexandre Dumas, Pere
  • If no countersign be used, the rules for challenging are the same.

  • “Give the countersign,” said Travis with ill-concealed irritation.

    The Bishop of Cottontown John Trotwood Moore
  • Now I did not know the countersign, and I had to tell him so.

    The Relief of Mafeking

    Filson Young
British Dictionary definitions for countersign


verb (ˈkaʊntəˌsaɪn; ˌkaʊntəˈsaɪn)
(transitive) to sign (a document already signed by another)
noun (ˈkaʊntəˌsaɪn)
Also called countersignature. the signature so written
a secret sign given in response to another sign
(mainly military) a password
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 countersign

1590s, from Middle French contresigne, from contre- "against" (see contra-) + signe "sign" (see sign (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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