[ trahy-ling-gwuhl or, Canadian, -ling-gyoo-uhl ]
/ traɪˈlɪŋ gwəl or, Canadian, -ˈlɪŋ gyu əl /
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using, speaking, or involving three languages.
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Origin of trilingual

1825–35; <Latin trilingu(is) triple-tongued + -al1. See tri-, lingual


tri·lin·gual·ism, nountri·lin·gual·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does trilingual mean?

Trilingual is most commonly used to describe someone who can speak or understand three languages, especially with some level of fluency.

It can also be used to describe things that involve or that are written or spoken in three languages, as in These instructions are trilingual—they’re written in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

The similar terms bilingual and multilingual are used in the same way, with bilingual indicating two languages and multilingual indicating more than two and especially several languages.

The ability to speak three languages or the use of two languages is called trilingualism.

Example: Being trilingual is a great advantage for many job seekers.

Where does trilingual come from?

The first records of the word trilingual come from around the 1830s. It’s composed of tri-, meaning “three,” and lingual, which means “pertaining to languages.” Lingual shares a root with other language-related words, like linguistics and linguaphile.

Some people who are trilingual may be masters of all three of the languages they speak. But a person might be described—or describe themselves—as trilingual even if they’re not fluent in all three. Some people may be trilingual when they learn two languages in addition to their native language. Others may be able to speak two natives languages and another that they acquired later. A person might even be trilingual from a very young age. Countries are sometimes described as trilingual when they have three official or widely used languages.

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What are some other forms related to trilingual?

  • trilingually (adverb)
  • trilingualism (noun)

What are some synonyms for trilingual?

What are some words that share a root or word element with trilingual

What are some words that often get used in discussing trilingual?

How is trilingual used in real life?

Trilingual is most commonly used to describe people who speak three languages, but it’s also commonly used to describe other things written in or involving three languages.  



Try using trilingual!

Is trilingual used correctly in the following sentence?

In some places, the street signs are trilingual since there are three widely spoken languages.

How to use trilingual in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for trilingual

/ (traɪˈlɪŋɡwəl) /

able to speak three languages fluently
expressed or written in three languages

Derived forms of trilingual

trilingualism, nountrilingually, adverb
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