• synonyms


[sem-uh-fawr, -fohr]
  1. an apparatus for conveying information by means of visual signals, as a light whose position may be changed.
  2. any of various devices for signaling by changing the position of a light, flag, etc.
  3. a system of signaling, especially a system by which a special flag is held in each hand and various positions of the arms indicate specific letters, numbers, etc.
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verb (used with or without object), sem·a·phored, sem·a·phor·ing.
  1. to signal by semaphore or by some system of flags.
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Origin of semaphore

1810–20; < Greek sêma sign + -phore
Related formssem·a·phor·ic [sem-uh-fawr-ik, -for-] /ˌsɛm əˈfɔr ɪk, -ˈfɒr-/, sem·a·phor·i·cal, adjectivesem·a·phor·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for semaphoric

Historical Examples

  • He was standing as he spoke, emphasising his periods with semaphoric motions of his right arm.

    Bunch Grass

    Horace Annesley Vachell

  • A semaphoric communication was soon afterwards established between the Alumbagh and the Residency.

    Our Soldiers

    W.H.G. Kingston

British Dictionary definitions for semaphoric


  1. an apparatus for conveying information by means of visual signals, as with movable arms or railway signals, flags, etc
  2. a system of signalling by holding a flag in each hand and moving the arms to designated positions to denote each letter of the alphabet
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  1. to signal (information) by means of semaphore
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Derived Formssemaphoric (ˌsɛməˈfɒrɪk) or semaphorical, adjectivesemaphorically, adverb

Word Origin

C19: via French, from Greek sēma a signal + -phore
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 semaphoric



"apparatus for signaling," 1816, probably via French sémaphore, literally "a bearer of signals," ultimately from Greek sema "sign, signal" (see semantic) + phoros "bearer," from pherein "to carry" (see infer). Related: Semaphoric (1808).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper