[spoh-kuh n]


a past participle of speak.


uttered or expressed by speaking; oral (opposed to written): the spoken word.
speaking, or using speech, as specified (usually used in combination): fair-spoken; plain-spoken; soft-spoken.



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

to utter words or articulate sounds with the ordinary voice; talk: He was too ill to speak.
to communicate vocally; mention: to speak to a person about various matters.
to converse: She spoke with him for an hour.
to deliver an address, discourse, etc.: to speak at a meeting.
to make a statement in written or printed words.
to communicate, signify, or disclose by any means; convey significance.
Phonetics. to produce sounds or audible sequences of individual or concatenated sounds of a language, especially through phonation, amplification, and resonance, and through any of a variety of articulatory processes.
(of a computer) to express data or other information audibly by means of an audio response unit.
to emit a sound, as a musical instrument; make a noise or report.
Chiefly British. (of dogs) to bark when ordered.
Fox Hunting. (of a hound or pack) to bay on finding a scent.

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

to utter vocally and articulately: to speak words of praise.
to express or make known with the voice: to speak the truth.
to declare in writing or printing, or by any means of communication.
to make known, indicate, or reveal.
to use, or be able to use, in oral utterance, as a language: to speak French.
(of a computer) to express or make known (data, prompts, etc.) by means of an audio response unit.
Nautical. to communicate with (a passing vessel) at sea, as by voice or signal: We spoke a whaler on the fourth day at sea.
Archaic. to speak to or with.

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.

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

Synonyms for speak

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

Examples from the Web for spoken

Contemporary Examples of spoken

Historical Examples of spoken

  • I know that I have spoken of him as I ought not to have spoken.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Some of the people demanded what he had to say of the gods, since he had spoken so ably of men.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • He was then required to swear by all the gods, and by the dreaded Erinnys, that he had spoken truly.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • And I looked and saw the chariot and horses, of which the voice had spoken.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • I would have spoken about it at first, but then I had no money, and didn't know when I should have any.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

British Dictionary definitions for spoken



the past participle of speak


uttered through the medium of speechCompare written
(in combination) having speech as specifiedsoft-spoken
spoken for engaged, reserved, or allocated


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 spoken

in compounds, "speaking" (in a certain way), late-15c., from past participle of speak (v.).



Old English specan, variant of sprecan "to speak" (class V strong verb; past tense spræc, past participle sprecen), from Proto-Germanic *sprekanan (cf. Old Saxon sprecan, Old Frisian spreka, Middle Dutch spreken, Old High German sprehhan, German sprechen "to speak," Old Norse spraki "rumor, report"), cognate with Latin spargere "to strew" (speech as a "scattering" of words; see sparse).

The -r- began to drop out in Late West Saxon and was gone by mid-12c., perhaps from influence of Danish spage "crackle," in a slang sense of "speak" (cf. crack in slang senses having to do with speech, e.g. wisecrack, cracker, all it's cracked up to be). Rare variant forms without -r- also are found in Middle Dutch (speken) and Old High German (spehhan).

Not the primary word for "to speak" in Old English (the "Beowulf" author prefers maþelian, from mæþel "assembly, council," from root of metan "to meet;" cf. Greek agoreuo "to speak," originally "speak in the assembly," from agora "assembly").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with spoken


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.