[ speech ]
/ spitʃ /
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See synonyms for: speech / speeches on Thesaurus.com

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Origin of speech

First recorded before 900; Middle English speche, Old English spǣc, variant of sprǣc, derivative of sprecan “to speak”; cognate with German Sprache; see origin at speak;

synonym study for speech

1. Speech, language refer to the means of communication used by people. Speech is the expression of ideas and thoughts by means of articulate vocal sounds, or the faculty of thus expressing ideas and thoughts. Language is a set of conventional signs, not necessarily articulate or even vocal (any set of signs, signals, or symbols that convey meaning, including written words, may be called language): a spoken language. Thus, language is the set of conventions, and speech is the action of putting these to use: He couldn't understand the speech of the natives because it was in a foreign language. 4. Speech, address, oration, harangue are terms for a communication to an audience. Speech is the general word, with no implication of kind or length, or whether planned or not. An address is a rather formal, planned speech, appropriate to a particular subject or occasion. An oration is a polished, rhetorical address, given usually on a notable occasion, that employs eloquence and studied methods of delivery. A harangue is a violent, informal speech, often addressed to a casually assembled audience, and intended to arouse strong feeling (sometimes to lead to mob action).


self-speech, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is speech?

Speech is the ability to express thoughts and emotions through vocal sounds and gestures. The act of doing this is also known as speech.

Speech is something only humans are capable of doing and this ability has contributed greatly to humanity’s ability to develop civilization. Speech allows humans to communicate much more complex information than animals are able to.

Almost all animals make sounds or noises with the intent to communicate with each other, such as mating calls and yelps of danger. However, animals aren’t actually talking to each other. That is, they aren’t forming sentences or sharing complicated information. Instead, they are making simple noises that trigger another animal’s natural instincts.

While speech does involve making noises, there is a lot more going on than simple grunts and growls. First, humans’ vocal machinery, such as our lungs, throat, vocal chords, and tongue, allows for a wide range of intricate sounds. Second, the human brain is incredibly complex, allowing humans to process vocal sounds and understand combinations of them as words and oral communication. The human brain is essential for speech. While chimpanzees and other apes have vocal organs similar to humans’, their brains are much less advanced and they are unable to learn speech.

Why is speech important?

The first records of the word speech come from before the year 900. It ultimately comes from the Old English word sprecan, meaning “to speak.” Scientists debate on the exact date that humanity first learned to speak, with estimates ranging from 50,000 to 2 million years ago.

Related to the concept of speech is the idea of language. A language is the collection of symbols, sounds, gestures, and anything else that a group of people use to communicate with each other, such as English, Swahili, and American Sign Language. Speech is actually using those things to orally communicate with someone else.

Did you know … ?

But what about birds that “talk”? Parrots in particular are famous for their ability to say human words and sentences. Birds are incapable of speech. What they are actually doing is learning common sounds that humans make and mimicking them. They don’t actually understand what anything they are repeating actually means.

What are real-life examples of speech?

Speech is essential to human communication.

What other words are related to speech?

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

Humans are the only animals capable of speech.

How to use speech in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for speech

/ (spiːtʃ) /

  1. the act or faculty of speaking, esp as possessed by personsto have speech with somebody
  2. (as modifier)speech therapy
that which is spoken; utterance
a talk or address delivered to an audience
a person's characteristic manner of speaking
a national or regional language or dialect
linguistics another word for parole (def. 5)

Word Origin for speech

Old English spēc; related to specan to speak
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