[noun, verb koun-ter-sahyn; verb koun-ter-sahyn]


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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for countersign

Historical Examples of countersign

  • “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.

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for countersign


verb (ˈkaʊntəˌsaɪn, ˌkaʊntəˈsaɪn)

(tr) 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

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