verb (used without object), spoke or (Archaic) spake; spo·ken or (Archaic) spoke; speak·ing.

verb (used with object), spoke or (Archaic) spake; spo·ken or (Archaic) spoke; speak·ing.

Verb Phrases

speak for,
  1. to intercede for or recommend; speak in behalf of.
  2. to express or articulate the views of; represent.
  3. to choose or prefer; have reserved for oneself: This item is already spoken for.
speak out, to express one's opinion openly and unreservedly: He was not afraid to speak out when it was something he believed in strongly.

Nearby words

  1. spaza shop,
  2. spca,
  3. spck,
  4. spd,
  5. spda,
  6. speak down to,
  7. speak for,
  8. speak of the devil,
  9. speak one's mind,
  10. speak one's piece


Origin of speak

before 900; Middle English speken, Old English specan, variant of sprecan; cognate with German sprechen (Old High German sprehhan; compare variant spehhan)

1. Speak, converse, talk mean to make vocal sounds, usually for purposes of communication. To speak often implies conveying information and may apply to anything from an informal remark to a scholarly presentation to a formal address: to speak sharply; to speak before Congress. To converse is to exchange ideas with someone by speaking: to converse with a friend. To talk is a close synonym for to speak but usually refers to less formal situations: to talk about the weather; to talk with a friend. 12. pronounce, articulate. 13. say. 15. disclose.

Related formsspeak·a·ble, adjectivespeak·a·ble·ness, nounspeak·a·bly, adverb

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for speak for

speak for

verb (intr, preposition)

to speak as a representative of (other people)
speak for itself to be so evident that no further comment is necessary
speak for yourself informal (used as an imperative) do not presume that other people agree with you


verb speaks, speaking, spoke or spoken

to make (verbal utterances); utter (words)
to communicate or express (something) in or as if in wordsI speak the truth
(intr) to deliver a speech, discourse, etc
(tr) to know how to talk in (a language or dialect)he does not speak German
(intr) to make a characteristic soundthe clock spoke
(intr) (of dogs, esp hounds used in hunting) to give tongue; bark
(tr) nautical to hail and converse or communicate with (another vessel) at sea
(intr) (of a musical instrument) to produce a sound
(intr foll by for) to be a representative or advocate (of)he speaks for all the members
on speaking terms on good terms; friendly
so to speak in a manner of speaking; as it were
speak one's mind to express one's opinions frankly and plainly
to speak of of a significant or worthwhile naturewe have had no support to speak of

Derived Formsspeakable, adjective

Word Origin for speak

Old English specan; related to Old High German spehhan, Middle High German spechten to gossip, Middle Dutch speken; see speech

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 speak for


Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with speak for

speak for


Intercede for, recommend, as in He spoke for the young applicant, commending her honesty. [c. 1300]


Express the views of, as in I can't speak for my husband but I'd love to accept, or I don't care what Harry thinks—Speak for yourself, Joe. [c. 1300]


speak for itself. Be significant or self-evident, as in They haven't called us in months, and that speaks for itself. [Second half of 1700s]


spoken for. Ordered, engaged, or reserved, as in This lot of rugs is already spoken for, or Is this dance spoken for? This usage comes from the older verb, bespeak, meaning “to order.” [Late 1600s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with speak

  • speak down to
  • speak for
  • speak of the devil
  • speak one's mind
  • speak one's piece
  • speak out
  • speak out of turn
  • speak the same language
  • speak too soon
  • speak up
  • speak volumes

also see:

  • actions speak louder than words
  • in a manner of speaking
  • nothing to speak of
  • not to mention (speak of)
  • on speaking terms
  • so to speak
  • to speak of
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.