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language definition

Overview

This page has 15 definitions of language in English, French, and Middle English. Language is a noun and verb. Examples of how to use language in a sentence are shown. Also define these 29 related words and terms: body, word, grammar, community, communication, ASL, sublanguage, slang, particular, jargon, specialist, field, blub, computing, computer language, machine language, manner, expression, speech, passage, text, profanity, communicate, express, languet, pipe, organ, langage, and language.

English language definition

Pronunciation

Etymology 1

From Middle English langage, language, from Old French language, from Vulgar Latin *linguāticum, from Latin lingua (tongue, speech, language), from Old Latin dingua (tongue), from Proto-Indo-European *dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s (tongue, speech, language).

Noun

language (countable and uncountable, plural languages)

Examples

The English Wiktionary uses the English language to define words from all of the world's languages.


This person is saying "hello" in American sign language.
  1. (countable) A body of words, and set of methods of combining them (called a grammar), understood by a community and used as a form of communication.
    The English language and the German language are related.
    Deaf and mute people communicate using languages like ASL.
    • 1867, Report on the Systems of Deaf-Mute Instruction pursued in Europe, quoted in 1983 in History of the College for the Deaf, 1857-1907 →ISBN, page 240:
      Hence the natural language of the mute is, in schools of this class, suppressed as soon and as far as possible, and its existence as a language, capable of being made the reliable and precise vehicle for the widest range of thought, is ignored.
    • 1900, William Beckford, The History of the Caliph Vathek, page 50:
      No language could express his rage and despair.
    • 2000, Geary Hobson, The Last of the Ofos, →ISBN, page 113:
      Mr. Darko, generally acknowledged to be the last surviving member of the Ofo Tribe, was also the last remaining speaker of the tribe's language.
    • Word definition
      The smallest unit of language that has a particular meaning and can be expressed by itself; the smallest discrete, meaningful unit of language.
      1. The smallest discrete unit of spoken language with a particular meaning, composed of one or more phonemes and one or more morphemes
      2. The smallest discrete unit of written language with a particular meaning, composed of one or more letters or symbols and one or more morphemes
      3. A discrete, meaningful unit of language approved by an authority or native speaker (compare non-word).
      (1 of 21 word definitions)
  2. (uncountable) The ability to communicate using words.
    the gift of language
  3. (uncountable) A sublanguage: the slang of a particular community or jargon of a particular specialist field.
    • 1892, Walter Besant, “Prologue: Who is Edmund Gray?”, in The Ivory Gate: A Novel, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, [], OCLC 16832619:
      Thus, when he drew up instructions in lawyer language, he expressed the important words by an initial, a medial, or a final consonant, and made scratches for all the words between; his clerks, however, understood him very well.
    • 1991, Stephen Fry, The Liar, p. 35:
      And ‘blubbing’... Blubbing went out with ‘decent’ and ‘ripping’. Mind you, not a bad new language to start up. Nineteen-twenties schoolboy slang could be due for a revival.
    legal language;   the language of chemistry
  4. (countable, uncountable, figurative) The expression of thought (the communication of meaning) in a specified way; that which communicates something, as language does.
    body language;   the language of the eyes
    • 2001, Eugene C. Kennedy, Sara C. Charles, On Becoming a Counselor →ISBN:
      A tale about themselves [is] told by people with help from the universal languages of their eyes, their hands, and even their shirting feet.
    • 2005, Sean Dooley, The Big Twitch, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, page 231:
      Birding had become like that for me. It is a language that, once learnt, I have been unable to unlearn.
  5. (countable, uncountable) A body of sounds, signs and/or signals by which animals communicate, and by which plants are sometimes also thought to communicate.
    • 1983, The Listener, volume 110, page 14:
      A more likely hypothesis was that the attacked leaves were transmitting some airborne chemical signal to sound the alarm, rather like insects sending out warnings [] But this is the first time that a plant-to-plant language has been detected.
    • 2009, Animals in Translation, page 274:
      Prairie dogs use their language to refer to real dangers in the real world, so it definitely has meaning.
  6. (computing, countable) A computer language; a machine language.
    • 2015, Kent D. Lee, Foundations of Programming Languages →ISBN, page 94
      In fact pointers are called references in these languages to distinguish them from pointers in languages like C and C++.
  7. (uncountable) Manner of expression.
    • 1782, William Cowper, Hope
      Their language simple, as their manners meek, []
  8. (uncountable) The particular words used in a speech or a passage of text.
    The language used in the law does not permit any other interpretation.
    The language he used to talk to me was obscene.
    • Passage definition
      Describing a bird that has left the nest, is living on its own, but is less than a year old. (commonly used in falconry)
  9. (uncountable) Profanity.
    • 1978, James Carroll, Mortal Friends, →ISBN, page 500:
      "Where the hell is Horace?" ¶ "There he is. He's coming. You shouldn't use language."
Synonyms
Hypernyms
Hyponyms
linguistics: Hyponyms of language (kinds)
 
linguistics: Hyponyms of language (types)
  • active-stative language
  • agglutinative language
  • analytic language
  • direct-inverse language
  • E-language
  • ergative-absolutive language
  • I-language
  • isolating language
  • nominative-accusative language
  • oligosynthetic language
  • OV language
  • polysynthetic language
  • synthetic language
  • tripartite language
  • VO language
 
Derived terms
 
Related terms
Translations

See language/translations § Noun.

Verb

language (third-person singular simple present languages, present participle languaging, simple past and past participle languaged)

  1. (rare, now nonstandard or technical) To communicate by language; to express in language.
    • 1655, Thomas Fuller, Church-History of Britain
      Others were languaged in such doubtful expressions that they have a double sense.
    • Express definition
      Moving or operating quickly, as a train not making local stops. (1 of 4 express definitions)

See also

Etymology 2

Alteration of languet.

Noun

language (plural languages)

  1. A languet, a flat plate in or below the flue pipe of an organ.
    • 1896, William Horatio Clarke, The Organist's Retrospect, page 79:
      A flue-pipe is one in which the air passes through the throat, or flue, which is the narrow, longitudinal aperture between the lower lip and the tongue, or language. [] The language is adjusted by slightly elevating or depressing it, []

References

  • language at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • language in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • language in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911.

French language definition

Noun

language m (plural languages)

  1. Archaic spelling of langage.

Middle English language definition

Noun

language (plural languages)

  1. Alternative form of langage

Middle French language definition

Alternative forms

Etymology

From Old French language.

Noun

language m (plural languages)

  1. language (style of communicating)

Related terms

Descendants


Old French language definition

Alternative forms

Etymology

From Vulgar Latin *linguāticum, from Classical Latin lingua (tongue, language).

Pronunciation

Noun

language f (oblique plural languages, nominative singular language, nominative plural languages)

  1. language (style of communicating)

Related terms

Descendants