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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for countersign
Historical Examples
  • The sentinel challenged, and Silent went forward and gave the countersign.

  • Their concluding words had evidently been some form of sign and countersign.

    A Study In Scarlet Arthur Conan Doyle
  • He was stopped and challenged frequently, but having the countersign, had no difficulty in passing the sentries.

  • We had no countersign, but I immediately ran the boat ashore, and we landed.

    Field and Forest Oliver Optic
  • He halted old Quicker-nor-that and demanded the countersign.

    Drum Taps in Dixie Delavan S. Miller
  • Advance, friend in a tremendous hurry, and give the countersign.

    Field and Forest Oliver Optic
  • The party listened attentively, but failed to get the countersign, which was given in a whisper.

    The Border Spy Lieut. Col. Hazeltine
  • If no countersign be used, the rules for challenging are the same.

  • Then she remembered that by the merest chance in the world she knew the countersign for that night.

    The Duke of Stockbridge Edward Bellamy
  • But when he was told to advance and give the countersign what would be his answer?

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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