[ lang-gwij ]
See synonyms for: languagelanguages on

  1. a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition: the two languages of Belgium; a Bantu language; the French language; the Yiddish language.

  2. communication by voice in the distinctively human manner, using arbitrary sounds in conventional ways with conventional meanings; speech.

  1. the system of linguistic signs or symbols considered in the abstract (opposed to speech).

  2. any set or system of such symbols as used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another.

  3. any system of formalized symbols, signs, sounds, gestures, or the like used or conceived as a means of communicating thought, emotion, etc.: the language of mathematics; sign language.

  4. the means of communication used by animals: the language of birds.

  5. communication of meaning in any way; medium that is expressive, significant, etc.: the language of flowers; the language of art.

  6. linguistics; the study of language.

  7. the speech or phraseology peculiar to a class, profession, etc.; lexis; jargon.

  8. a particular manner of verbal expression: flowery language.

  9. choice of words or style of writing; diction: the language of poetry.

  10. Computers. a set of characters and symbols and syntactic rules for their combination and use, by means of which a computer can be given directions: The language of many commercial application programs is COBOL.

  11. a nation or people considered in terms of their speech.

  12. Archaic. faculty or power of speech.

Origin of language

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English, from Anglo-French, variant spelling of langage, derivative of langue “tongue.” See lingua, -age

synonym study For language

2. See speech. 4, 9. Language, dialect, jargon, vernacular refer to linguistic configurations of vocabulary, syntax, phonology, and usage that are characteristic of communities of various sizes and types. Language is a broad term applied to the overall linguistic configurations that allow a particular people to communicate: the English language; the French language. Dialect is applied to certain forms or varieties of a language, often those that provincial communities or special groups retain (or develop) even after a standard has been established: Scottish dialect; regional dialect; Southern dialect. A jargon is either an artificial linguistic configuration used by a particular (usually occupational) group within a community or a special configuration created for communication in a particular business or trade or for communication between members of groups that speak different languages: computer jargon; the Chinook jargon. A vernacular is the authentic natural pattern--the ordinary speech--of a given language, now usually on the informal level. It is at once congruent with and, in relatively small ways, distinguished from the standard language in syntax, vocabulary, usage, and pronunciation. It is used by persons indigenous to a certain community, large or small.

Other words for language

Other words from language

  • pre·lan·guage, adjective

Words Nearby language Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use language in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for language


/ (ˈlæŋɡwɪdʒ) /

  1. a system for the expression of thoughts, feelings, etc, by the use of spoken sounds or conventional symbols

  2. the faculty for the use of such systems, which is a distinguishing characteristic of man as compared with other animals

  1. the language of a particular nation or people: the French language

  2. any other systematic or nonsystematic means of communicating, such as gesture or animal sounds: the language of love

  3. the specialized vocabulary used by a particular group: medical language

  4. a particular manner or style of verbal expression: your language is disgusting

  5. computing See programming language

  6. speak the same language to communicate with understanding because of common background, values, etc

Origin of language

C13: from Old French langage, ultimately from Latin lingua tongue

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

Scientific definitions for language


[ lănggwĭj ]

  1. A system of objects or symbols, such as sounds or character sequences, that can be combined in various ways following a set of rules, especially to communicate thoughts, feelings, or instructions. See also machine language programming language.

  2. The set of patterns or structures produced by such a system.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.