[ sem-uh-fawr, -fohr ]
/ ˈsɛm əˌfɔr, -ˌfoʊr /


an apparatus for conveying information by means of visual signals, as a light whose position may be changed.
any of various devices for signaling by changing the position of a light, flag, etc.
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.

verb (used with or without object), sem·a·phored, sem·a·phor·ing.

to signal by semaphore or by some system of flags.

Origin of semaphore

1810–20; < Greek sêma sign + -phore

Related forms

sem·a·phor·ic [sem-uh-fawr-ik, -for-] /ˌsɛm əˈfɔr ɪk, -ˈfɒr-/, sem·a·phor·i·cal, adjectivesem·a·phor·i·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for semaphoric

  • 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


/ (ˈsɛməˌfɔː) /


an apparatus for conveying information by means of visual signals, as with movable arms or railway signals, flags, etc
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


to signal (information) by means of semaphore

Derived Forms

semaphoric (ˌsɛməˈfɒrɪk) or semaphorical, adjectivesemaphorically, adverb

Word Origin for semaphore

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