noun Radio and Television.

a communications system enabling those in the studio to hear control-room personnel through a loudspeaker or headphones.

Origin of talk-back

noun use of verb phrase talk back



verb (used without object)

to communicate or exchange ideas, information, etc., by speaking: to talk about poetry.
to consult or confer: Talk with your adviser.
to spread a rumor or tell a confidence; gossip.
to chatter or prate.
to employ speech; perform the act of speaking: to talk very softly; to talk into a microphone.
to deliver a speech, lecture, etc.: The professor talked on the uses of comedy in the tragedies of Shakespeare.
to give or reveal confidential or incriminating information: After a long interrogation, the spy finally talked.
to communicate ideas by means other than speech, as by writing, signs, or signals.
Computers. to transmit data, as between computers or between a computer and a terminal.
to make sounds imitative or suggestive of speech.

verb (used with object)

to express in words; utter: to talk sense.
to use (a specified language or idiom) in speaking or conversing: They talk French together for practice.
to discuss: to talk politics.
Informal. (used only in progressive tenses) to focus on; signify or mean; talk about: This isn't a question of a few hundred dollars—we're talking serious money.
to bring, put, drive, influence, etc., by talk: to talk a person to sleep; to talk a person into doing something.


the act of talking; speech; conversation, especially of a familiar or informal kind.
an informal speech or lecture.
a conference or negotiating session: peace talks.
report or rumor; gossip: There is a lot of talk going around about her.
a subject or occasion of talking, especially of gossip: Your wild escapades are the talk of the neighborhood.
mere empty speech: That's just a lot of talk.
a way of talking: a halting, lisping talk.
language, dialect, or lingo.
signs or sounds imitative or suggestive of speech, as the noise made by loose parts in a mechanism.

Verb Phrases

talk around, to bring (someone) over to one's way of thinking; persuade: She sounded adamant over the phone, but I may still be able to talk her around.
talk at,
  1. to talk to in a manner that indicates that a response is not expected or wanted.
  2. to direct remarks meant for one person to another person present; speak indirectly to.
talk away, to spend or consume (time) in talking: We talked away the tedious hours in the hospital.
talk back, to reply to a command, request, etc., in a rude or disrespectful manner: Her father never allowed them to talk back.
talk down,
  1. to overwhelm by force of argument or by loud and persistent talking; subdue by talking.
  2. to speak disparagingly of; belittle.
  3. Also talk give instructions to by radio for a ground-controlled landing, especially to a pilot who is unable to make a conventional landing because of snow, fog, etc.
talk down to, to speak condescendingly to; patronize: Children dislike adults who talk down to them.
talk of, to debate as a possibility; discuss: The two companies have been talking of a merger.
talk out,
  1. to talk until conversation is exhausted.
  2. to attempt to reach a settlement or understanding by discussion: We arrived at a compromise by talking out the problem.
  3. British thwart the passage of (a bill, motion, etc.) by prolonging discussion until the session of Parliament adjourns.Compare filibuster(def 5).
talk over,
  1. to weigh in conversation; consider; discuss.
  2. to cause (someone) to change an opinion; convince by talking: He became an expert at talking people over to his views.
talk up,
  1. to promote interest in; discuss enthusiastically.
  2. to speak without hesitation; speak distinctly and openly: If you don't talk up now, you may not get another chance.

Origin of talk

1175–1225; Middle English talk(i)en to converse, speak, derivative (with -k suffix) of tale speech, discourse, tale; cognate with Frisian (E dial.) talken
Related formstalk·a·ble, adjectivetalk·a·bil·i·ty, nountalk·er, nounin·ter·talk, verb (used without object)non·talk·er, nouno·ver·talk, verbun·der·talk, nounun·talk·ing, adjective

Synonyms for talk

1. See speak. 4, 20. prattle. 34. discourse. 17. colloquy, dialogue, parley, confabulation. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for talk back

talk back

verb (intr, adverb)

to answer boldly or impudently
NZ to conduct a telephone dialogue for immediate transmission over the air

noun talkback

television radio a system of telephone links enabling spoken directions to be given during the production of a programme
  1. a broadcast telephone dialogue
  2. (as modifier)a talkback show



(intr; often foll by to or with) to express one's thoughts, feelings, or desires by means of words (to); speak (to)
(intr) to communicate or exchange thoughts by other meanslovers talk with their eyes
(intr usually foll by about) to exchange ideas, pleasantries, or opinions (about)to talk about the weather
(intr) to articulate words; verbalizehis baby can talk
(tr) to give voice to; utterto talk rubbish
(tr) to hold a conversation about; discussto talk business
(intr) to reveal informationthe prisoner talked after torture
(tr) to know how to communicate in (a language or idiom)he talks English
(intr) to spread rumours or gossipwe don't want the neighbours to talk
(intr) to make sounds suggestive of talking
(intr) to be effective or persuasivemoney talks
now you're talking informal at last you're saying something agreeable
talk big to boast or brag
talk shop to speak about one's work, esp when meeting socially, sometimes with the effect of excluding those not similarly employed
talk the talk to speak convincingly on a particular subject, showing apparent mastery of its jargon and themes; often used in combination with the expression walk the walkSee also walk (def. 18b)
you can talk informal you don't have to worry about doing a particular thing yourself
you can't talk informal you yourself are guilty of offending in the very matter you are decrying


a speech or lecturea talk on ancient Rome
an exchange of ideas or thoughtsa business talk with a colleague
idle chatter, gossip, or rumourthere has been a lot of talk about you two
a subject of conversation; themeour talk was of war
(often plural) a conference, discussion, or negotiationtalks about a settlement
a specific manner of speakingchildren's talk
Derived Formstalkable, adjectivetalkability, nountalker, noun

Word Origin for talk

C13 talkien to talk; related to Old English talu tale, Frisian talken to talk
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 talk back



late 15c., "speech, discourse, conversation," from talk (v.). Meaning "informal lecture or address" is from 1859. Talk of the town first recorded 1620s. Talk show first recorded 1965; talk radio is from 1985.



early 13c., talken, probably a diminutive or frequentative form related to Middle English tale "story," ultimately from the same source as tale (cf. hark from hear, stalk from steal) and replacing that word as a verb. East Frisian has talken "to talk, chatter, whisper." Related: Talked; talking.

To talk shop is from 1854. To talk turkey is from 1824, supposedly from an elaborate joke about a swindled Indian. To talk back "answer impudently or rudely" is from 1869. Phrase talking head is by 1966 in the jargon of television production, "an in-tight closeup of a human head talking on television." In reference to a person who habitually appears on television in talking-head shots (usually a news anchor), by 1970. The phrase is used earlier, in reference to the well-known magic trick (e.g. Senior Wences talking head-in-the-box trick on the "Ed Sullivan Show"), and to actual talking heads in mythology around the world (e.g. Orpheus, Bran).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with talk back

talk back

Also, answer back. Reply rudely or impertinently, as in She was always in trouble for talking back, or The teacher won't allow anyone to answer back to her. [Second half of 1800s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with talk

  • talk around
  • talk at
  • talk back
  • talk big
  • talk dirty
  • talk down
  • talk down to
  • talked out
  • talk into
  • talk of the town, the
  • talk out
  • talk out of
  • talk over
  • talk sense
  • talk shop
  • talk someone's arm off
  • talk through one's hat
  • talk to
  • talk turkey
  • talk up

also see:

  • all talk
  • dirty joke (talk dirty)
  • double talk
  • heart to heart (talk)
  • look who's talking
  • money talks
  • now you're talking
  • small talk
  • straight talk
  • sweet talk
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.