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a. Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
b. Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
c. Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.
a. A system of signs, symbols, gestures, or rules used in communicating: the language of algebra.
b. Computers A system of symbols and rules used for communication with or between computers.
3. Body language; kinesics.
4. The special vocabulary and usages of a scientific, professional, or other group: "his total mastery of screen language—camera placement, editing—and his handling of actors" (Jack Kroll).
5. A characteristic style of speech or writing: Shakespearean language.
6. A particular manner of expression: profane language; persuasive language.
7. The manner or means of communication between living creatures other than humans: the language of dolphins.
8. Verbal communication as a subject of study.
9. The wording of a legal document or statute as distinct from the spirit.

[Middle English, from Old French langage, from langue, tongue, language, from Latin lingua; see dn̥ghū- in Indo-European roots.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. (Linguistics) a system for the expression of thoughts, feelings, etc, by the use of spoken sounds or conventional symbols
2. (Linguistics) the faculty for the use of such systems, which is a distinguishing characteristic of man as compared with other animals
3. (Linguistics) the language of a particular nation or people: the French language.
4. any other systematic or nonsystematic means of communicating, such as gesture or animal sounds: the language of love.
5. the specialized vocabulary used by a particular group: medical language.
6. a particular manner or style of verbal expression: your language is disgusting.
7. (Computer Science) computing See programming language
8. speak the same language to communicate with understanding because of common background, values, etc
[C13: from Old French langage, ultimately from Latin lingua tongue]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈlæŋ gwɪdʒ)

1. a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition: the French language.
a. communication using a system of arbitrary vocal sounds, written symbols, signs, or gestures in conventional ways with conventional meanings: spoken language; sign language.
b. the ability to communicate in this way.
3. the system of linguistic signs or symbols considered in the abstract.
4. any set or system of formalized symbols, signs, sounds, or gestures used or conceived as a means of communicating: the language of mathematics.
5. the means of communication used by animals: the language of birds.
6. communication of thought, feeling, etc., through a nonverbal medium: body language; the language of flowers.
7. the study of language; linguistics.
8. the vocabulary or phraseology used by a particular group, profession, etc.
9. a particular manner of verbal expression: flowery language.
10. choice of words or style of writing; diction: the language of poetry.
11. a set of symbols and syntactic rules for their combination and use, by means of which a computer can be given directions.
12. Archaic. faculty or power of speech.
[1250–1300; Middle English < Anglo-French, variant of langage, Old French =langue tongue, language (< Latin lingua) + -age -age]
syn: language, dialect, jargon, vernacular refer to patterns of vocabulary, syntax, and usage characteristic of communities of various sizes and types. language is applied to the general pattern of a people or nation: the English language. dialect is applied to regionally or socially distinct forms or varieties of a language, often forms used by provincial communities that differ from the standard variety: the Scottish dialect. jargon is applied to the specialized language, esp. the vocabulary, used by a particular (usu. occupational) group within a community or to language considered unintelligible or obscure: technical jargon. The vernacular is the natural, everyday pattern of speech, usu. on an informal level, used by people indigenous to a community.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


language typical of academies or the world of learning; pedantic language.
a word, phrase, or idiom peculiar to American English. Cf. Briticism, Canadianism.
the art or practice of making anagrams. Also called metagrammatism.
anything characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon race, especially any linguistic peculiarity that sterns from Old English and has not been affected by another language.
Linguistics. the loss of an initial unstressed vowel in a word, as squire for esquire. Also called apharesis, aphesis. — aphetic, adj.
of or relating to languages that have no grammatical inflections.
a word, phrase, idiom, or other characteristic of Aramaic occurring in a corpus written in another language.
Obsolete, a courtly phrase or expression. — aulic, adj.
the study of the Basque language and culture.
1. the ability to speak two languages.
2. the use of two languages, as in a community. Also bilinguality, diglottism. — bilingual, bilinguist, n. — bilingual, adj.
the state or quality of being composed of two letters, as a word. — biliteral, adj.
coarse, vulgar, violent, or abusive language. [Allusion to the scurrilous language used in Billingsgate market, London.]
a word, idiom, or phrase characteristic of or restricted to British English. Also called Britishism. Cf. Americanism, Canadianism.
1. a word or phrase commonly used in Canadian rather than British or American English. Cf. Americanism, Briticism.
2. a word or phrase typical of Canadian French or English that is present in another language.
3. an instance of speech, behavior, customs, etc., typical of Canada.
1. a word, phrase, or idiom characteristic of Celtic languages in material written in another language.
2. a Celtic custom or usage.
an idiom or other linguistic feature peculiar to Chaldean, especially in material written in another language. — Chaldaic, n., adj.
a word or phrase characteristic of Cilicia.
Rare. the use of euphemisms in order to avoid the use of plain words and any misfortune associated with them.
a word, phrase, or expression characteristic of ordinary or familiar conversation rather than formal speech or writing, as “She’s out” for “She is not at home.” — colloquial, adj.
a colloquial word or expression or one used in conversation more than in writing. Also conversationism.
a mania for foul speech.
1. the science or study of secret writing, especially code and cipher systems.
2. the procedures and methods of making and using secret languages, as codes or ciphers. — cryptographer, cryptographist, n. — cryptographic, cryptographical, cryptographal, adj.
1. the study of, or the use of, methods and procedures for translating and interpreting codes and ciphers; cryptanalysis.
2.cryptography. — cryptologist, n.
a word or expression characteristic of the Danish language.
1. of or relating to the common people; popular.
2. of, pertaining to, or noting the simplified form of hieratic writing used in ancient Egypt.
3. (cap.) of, belonging to, or connected with modern colloquial Greek. Also called Romaic.
a student of demotic language and writings.
an expression of scorn. — deristic, adj.
1. a dialect word or expression.
2. dialectal speech or influence.
a bilingual book or other work. — diglottic, adj.
the condition of having two syllables. — disyllable, n. — disyllabic, disyllabical, adj.
the use of language that is characteristic of the Dorian Greeks.
1. a deliberate substitution of a disagreeable, offensive, or disparaging word for an otherwise inoffensive term, as pig for policeman.
2. an instance of such substitution. Cf. euphemism.
a pithy statement, often containing a paradox.
the state or quality of being ambiguous in meaning or capable of double interpretation. — equivocal, adj.
a book of etymologies; any treatise on the derivation of words.
the branch of linguistics that studies the origin and history of words. — etymologist, n. — etymologie, etymological, adj.
1. the deliberate or polite use of a pleasant or neutral word or expression to avoid the emotional implications of a plain term, as passed over for died.
2. an instance of such use. Cf. dysphemism, genteelism. — euphemist, n. — euphemistic, euphemistical, euphemious, adj.
the customs, languages, and traditions distinctive of Europeans.
a custom or language characteristic peculiar to foreigners.
French characterized by an interlarding of English loan words.
a French loanword in English, as tête-à-tête. Also called Gallicism.
1. a French linguistic peculiarity.
2. a French idiom or expression used in another language. Also called Frenchism.
1. the deliberate use of a word or phrase as a substitute for one thought to be less proper, if not coarse, as male cow for buil or limb for leg.
2. an instance of such substitution.
a German loanword in English, as gemütlich. Also called Teutonism, Teutonicism.
the study of the origin of language. — glottogonic, adj.
1. the worship of letters or words.
2. a devotion to the letter, as in law or Scripture; literalism.
1. an expression or construction peculiar to Hebrew.
2. the character, spirit, principles, or customs of the Hebrew people.
3. a Hebrew loanword in English, as shekel. — Hebraist, n. — Hebraistic, Hebraic, adj.
the state or quality of a given word’s having the same spelling as another word, but with a different sound or pronunciation and a different meaning, as lead ’guide’ and lead ’metal.’ Cf. homonymy. — heteronym, n. — heteronymous, adj.
an unconscious tendency to use words other than those intended. Cf. malapropism.
1. an Irish characteristic.
2. an idiom peculiar to Irish English. Also called Hibernicism. — Hibernian, adj.
a Spanish word or expression that often appears in another language, as bodega.
the ability, in certain languages, to express a complex idea or entire sentence in a single word, as the imperative “Stop!” — holophrasm, n. — holophrastic, adj.
the state or quality of a given word’s having the same spelling and the same sound or pronunciation as another word, but with a different meaning, as race ’tribe’ and race ’running contest.’ Cf. heteronymy. — homonym, n. — homonymous, adj.
1. a word formed from elements drawn from different languages.
2. the practice of coining such words.
a compilation of idiomatic words and phrases.
the advocacy of using the artificial language Ido, based upon Esperanto. — Ido, Idoist, n. — Idoistic, adj.
the tendency in some individuals to refer to themselves in the third person. — illeist, n.
an artificial international language, based upon the Romance languages, designed for use by the scientific community.
excessive use of the sound i and the substituting of this sound for other vowels. — iotacist, n.
Rare. an Irishism.
1. a word or phrase commonly used in Ireland rather than England or America, as begorra.
2. a mode of speech, idiom, or custom characteristic of the Irish. Also Iricism.
the numerical equality between words or lines of verse according to the ancient Greek notation, in which each letter receives a corresponding number. — isopsephic, adj.
an Italian loanword in English, as chiaroscuro. Also Italicism.
1. an Italian loanword in English, as chiaroscuro.
2. Italianism. See also printing.
a style of art, idiom, custom, mannerism, etc., typical of the Japanese.
Rare. a person who makes use of a jargon in his speech.
a word or expression whose root is the Kentish dialect.
1. a mode of expression imitative of Latin.
2. a Latin word, phrase, or expression that of ten appears in another lan-guage. — Latinize, v.
1. a particular way of speaking or writing Latin.
2. the use or knowledge of Latin.
the writing or compiling of dictionaries. — lexicographer, n. — lexicographic, lexicographical, adj.
1. a person skilled in the science of language. Also linguistician.
2. a person skilled in many languages; a polyglot.
a custom or manner of speaking peculiar to one locality. Also called provincialism. — localist, n. — localistic, adj.
a system in which ruling power is vested in words.
Rare. a cunning with words; verbal legerdemain. Also logodaedalus.
veneration or excessive regard for words. — logolatrous, adj.
1. a dispute about or concerning words.
2. a contention marked by the careless or incorrect use of words; a mean-ingless battle of words. — logomach, logomacher, logomachist, n. — logo- machic, logomachical, adj.
a form of divination involving the observation of words and discourse.
a mania for words or talking.
a lover of words. Also called philologue, philologer.
an abnormal fear or dislike of words.
1. an excessive or abnormal, sometimes incoherent talkativeness. — logorrheic, adj.
1. the unconscious use of an inappropriate word, especially in a cliché, as fender for feather in “You could have knocked me over with a fender.” [Named after Mrs. Malaprop, a character prone to such uses, in The Rivals, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan]
2. an instance of such misuse. Cf. heterophemism.
a word or expression that comes from the language of the Medes.
a member of an order of Armenian monks, founded in 1715 by Mekhitar da Pietro, dedicated to literary work, espeeially the perfecting of the Armenian language and the translation into it of the major works of other languages.
the practice of making a literal translation from one language into another. Cf. paraphrasis. — metaphrast, n. — metaphrastic, metaphrastical, adj.
a person capable of speaking only one language.
the condition of having only one syllable. — monosyllable, n. — monosyllabic, adj.
Obsolete, speaking foolishly. — morologist, n.
excessive use of or fondness for, or incorrect use of the letter m and the sound it represents. Also mutacism.
1. a new word, usage, or phrase.
2. the coining or introduction of new words or new senses for established words. See also theology. — neologian, neologist, n. — neologistic, neologistical, adj.
Rare. neologism. — neophrastic, adj.
1. a neologism.
2. the use of neologisms. — neoterist, n.
a word or phrase characteristic of those who reside in New York City.
a euphemism. See also attitudes.
a word or expression characteristic of a northern dialect.
the science of defining technical terms. — orismologic, orismological, adj.
the art of correct grammar and correct use of words. — orthologer, orthologian, n. — orthological, adj.
the ability to speak any language. — pantoglot, n.
the addition of a sound or group of sounds at the end of a word, as in the nonstandard idear for idea. Also called epithesis. — paragogic, paragogical, adj.
the recasting of an idea in words different from that originally used, whether in the same language or in a translation. Cf. metaphrasis, periphrasis. — paraphrastic, paraphrastical, adj.
1. word formation by the addition of both a prefix and a suffix to a stem or word, as international.
2. word formation by the addition of a suffix to a phrase or compound word, as nickel-and-diming. — parasynthetic, adj.
the use of equivocal or ambiguous terms. — parisological, adj.
the collecting and study of proverbs. Cf. proverbialism. — paroe-miologist, n. — paroemiologic, paroemiological, adj.
1. an artificial international language using signs and figures instead of words.
2. any artificial language, as Esperanto. — pasigraphic, adj.
Linguistics. a semantic change in a word to a lower, less respect-able meaning, as in hussy. Also pejoration.
a book or other work written in five languages. — pentaglot, adj.
1. a roundabout way of speaking or writing; circumlocution.
2. an expression in such fashion. Cf. paraphrasis. — periphrastic, adj.
Archaic. a pleonasm.
1. an idiom or the idiomatic aspect of a language.
2. a mode of expression.
3. Obsolete, a phrasebook. — phraseologist, n. — phraseologic, phraseological, adj.
1. an addiction to spoken or written expression in platitudes.
2. a staleness or dullness of both language and ideas. Also called platitudinism. — platitudinarian, n.
1. the use of unnecessary words to express an idea; redundancy.
2. an instance of this, as true fact.
3. a redundant word or expression. — pleonastic, adj.
a specialist in Polish language, literature, and culture.
1. a person who speaks several languages.
2. a mixture of languages. See also books. — polyglot, n., adj. — polyglottic, polyglottous, adj.
the ability to use or to speak several languages. — polyglot, n., adj.
Rare. verbosity.
a diversity of meanings for a given word.
the condition of having three or more syllables. — polysyllable, n. — polysyllabic, polysyllabical, adj.
the creation or use of portmanteau words, or words that are a blend of two other words, as smog (from smoke and fog).
excessive fastidiousness or over-refinement in language or behavior.
excessive wordiness in speech or writing; longwindedness. — prolix, adj.
a phrase typical of the Biblical prophets.
the composing, collecting, or customary use of proverbs. Cf. paroemiology.proverbialist, n.
a love of vacuous or trivial talk.
obfuscating language and jargon as used by psychologists, psychoanalysts, and psychiatrists, characterized by recondite phrases and arcane names for common conditions.
the policy or attempt to purify language and to make it conform to the rigors of pronunciation, usage, grammar, etc. that have been arbitrarily set forth by a certain group. Also called prescriptivism. See also art; criticism; literature; representation. — purist, n.,adj.
coarse, vulgar, or obscene language or joking. — ribald, adj.
something characteristic of or influenced by Russia, its people, customs, language, etc.
a rustic habit or mode of expression. — rustic, adj.rusticity, n.
a word, idiom, phrase, etc., of Anglo-Saxon or supposed Anglo-Saxon origin.
a feature characteristic of Scottish English or a word or phrase commonly used in Scotland rather than in England or America, as bonny.
1. the study of meaning.
2. the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form. — semanticist, semantician, n.semantic, adj.
a word, phrase, or idiom from a Semitic language, especially in the context of another language.
the study of Semitic languages and culture. — Semitist, Semiticist, n.
the practice of using very long words. Also sesquipedalism, sesquipedality. — sesquipedal, sesquipedalian, adj.
a slangy expression or word.
a Slavic loanword in English, as blini.
one who specializes in the study of Slavic languages, literatures, or other aspects of Slavic culture. Also Slavist.
the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident, as “queer dean” for “dear Queen.” [After the Rev. W. A. Spooner, 1844-1930, noted for such slips.] — spoonerize, v.
Archaic. the use of a secret language or code; cryptography. — steganographer, n.
the study of the language, history, and archaeology of the Sumerians. — Sumerologist, n.
a syllabary.
1. a table of syllables, as might be used for teaching a language.
2. a system of characters or symbols representing syllables instead of individual sounds. Also syllabarium.
a word that cannot be used as a term in its own right in logic, as an adverb or preposition. — syncategorematic, adj.
an expression whose origin is Syriac, a language based on the eastern Aramaic dialect.
Rare. tautology.
needless repetition of a concept in word or phrase; redundancy or pleonasm. Also tautologism. — tautologist, n.tautological, tautologous, adj.
1. the classification of terms associated with a particular field; nomenclature.
2. the terms of any branch of knowledge, field of activity, etc. — terminologic, terminological, adj.
1. anything typical or characteristic of the Teutons or Germans, as customs, attitudes, actions, etc.
2. Germanism. — Teutonic, adj.
a word, phrase, or idiom in English that is common to both Great Britain and the United States.
a trite, commonplace or hackneyed saying, expression, etc.; a platitude.
1. the use of the second person, as in apostrophe.
2. in certain languages, the use of the familiar second person in cases where the formal third person is usually found and expected.
3. an instance of such use.
Rare. the state or quality of having only one meaning or of being unmistakable in meaning, as a word or statement. — univocal, adj.
1. a verbal expression, as a word or phrase.
2. the way in which something is worded.
3. a phrase or sentence devoid or almost devoid of meaning.
4. a use of words regarded as obscuring ideas or reality; verbiage.
wordiness or prolixity; an excess of words.
Facetious. misuse or overuse of a word or any use of a word which is damaging to it.
meaningless repetition of words and phrases.
an excessive use of or attraction to words.
the quality or condition of wordiness; excessive use of words, especially unnecessary prolixity. — verbose, adj.
1. a word, phrase, or idiom from the native and popular language, contrasted with literary or learned language.
2. the use of the vernacular. — vernacular, n., adj.
a word or phrase characteristic of a village or rural community.
a speaker or advocate of Volapük, a language proposed for use as an international language.
a word or phrase used chiefly in coarse, colloquial speech. — vulgarian, vulgarist, n.
the habit of referring to oneself by the pronoun “we.”
a word or form of pronunciation distinctive of the western United States.
a remark or expression characterized by cleverness in perception and choice of words.
Facetious. the art or technique of employing a vocabulary of arcane, recondite words in order to gain an advantage over another person.
1. a Yankee characteristic or character.
2. British. a linguistic or cultural trait peculiar to the United States.
3. Southern U.S. a linguistic or cultural trait peculiar to the states siding with the Union during the Civil War.
4. Northern U.S. a linguistic or cultural trait peculiar to the New England states.
a Yiddish loanword in English, as chutzpa.
the language and customs of people living in the county of Yorkshire, England.
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.




  1. Greek is like lace; every man gets as much as he can —Samuel Johnson
  2. It is with language as with manners: they are both established by the usage of people of fashion —Lord Chesterfield

    See Also: MANNERS

  3. Language, if it throws a veil over our ideas, adds a softness and refinement to them, like that which the atmosphere gives to naked objects —William Hazlitt
  4. Language is a city, to the building of which every human being brings a stone —Ralph Waldo Emerson
  5. Language is an art, like brewing or baking —Charles R. Darwin
  6. Languages evolve like species. They can degenerate just as oysters and barnacles have lost their heads —F. L. Lucas
  7. Languages, like our bodies, are in a perpetual flux, and stand in need of recruits to supply those words which are continually falling into disuse —C. C. Felton
  8. Show them [Americans with a penchant for “fat” talk] a lean, plain word that cuts to the bones and watch them lard it with thick greasy syllables front and back until it wheezes and gasps for breath as it comes lumbering down upon some poor threadbare sentence like a sack of iron on a swayback horse —Russell Baker
  9. Slang is English with its sleeves rolled up —Carl Sandburg, quoted by William Safire in series on English language, PBS, September, 1986
  10. To write jargon is like perpetually shuffling around in the fog and cottonwool of abstract terms —Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.




bombast Pretentious speech; high-flown or inflated language. It is but a short step from the now obsolete literal meaning of bombast ‘cotton-wool padding or stuffing for garments’ to its current figurative sense of verbal padding or turgid language. Shakespeare used the word figuratively as early as 1588:

We have received your letters full of love,
Your favors, the ambassadors of love,
And in our maiden council rated them
At courtship, pleasant jest and courtesy,
As bombast and as lining to the time.
(Love’s Labour’s Lost, V, ii)

bumf Official documents collectively; piles of paper, specifically, paper containing jargon and bureaucratise; thus, such language itself: gobbledegook, governmentese, Whitehallese, Washingtonese. This contemptuous British expression comes from bumf, a portmanteau type contraction for bum fodder ‘toilet paper.’ It has been used figuratively since the 1930s.

I shall get a daily pile of bumf from the Ministry of Mines. (Evelyn Waugh, Scoop, 1938)

claptrap Bombast, high-sounding but empty language. The word derives from the literal claptrap, defined in one of Nathan Bailey’s dictionaries (1727-31) as “a trap to catch a clap by way of applause from the spectators at a play.” The kind of high-flown and grandiose language actors would use in order to win applause from an audience gave the word its current meaning.

dirty word A word which because of its associations is highly controversial, a red-flag word; a word which elicits responses of suspicion, paranoia, dissension, etc.; a sensitive topic, a sore spot. Dirty word originally referred to a blatantly obscene or taboo word. Currently it is also used to describe a superficially inoffensive word which is treated as if it were offensive because of its unpleasant or controversial associations. Depending on the context, such a word can be considered unpopular and taboo one day and “safe” the next.

gobbledegook Circumlocutory and pretentious speech or writing; official or professional jargon, bureaucratese, officialese. The term’s coinage has been attributed to Maury Maverick.

The Veterans Administration translated its bureaucratic gobbledygook. (Time, July, 1947)

inkhorn term An obscure, pedantic word borrowed from another language, especially Latin or Greek; a learned or literary term; affectedly erudite language. An inkhorn is a small, portable container formerly used to hold writing ink and originally made of horn. It symbolizes pedantry and affected erudition in this expression as well as in the phrase to smell of the inkhorn ‘to be pedantic’ The expression, now archaic, dates from at least 1543.

Irrevocable, irradiation, depopulation and such like, … which …were long time despised for inkhorn terms. (George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, 1589)

jawbreaker A word difficult to pronounce; a polysyllabic word. This self-evident expression appeared in print as early as the 19th century.

You will find no “jawbreakers” in Sackville. (George E. Saintsbury, A History of Elizabethan Literature, 1887)

malapropism The ridiculous misuse of similar sounding words, sometimes through ignorance, but often with punning or humorous intent. This eponymous term alludes to Mrs. Malaprop, a pleasant though pompously ignorant character in Richard B. Sheridan’s comedie play, The Rivals (1775). Mrs. Malaprop, whose name is derived from the French mal à propos ‘inappropriate,’ continually confuses and misapplies words and phrases, e.g., “As headstrong as an allegory [alligator] on the banks of the Nile.” (III, iii)

Lamaitre has reproached Shakespeare for his love of malapropisms. (Harper’s Magazine, April, 1890)

A person known for using malapropisms is often called a Mrs. Malaprop.

mumbo jumbo See GIBBERISH.

portmanteau word A word formed by the blending of two other words. Portmanteau is a British term for a suitcase which opens up into two parts. The concept of a portmanteau word was coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass (1872):

Well, ‘slithy’ means “lithe and slimy”
… You see it’s like a portmanteau—
There are two meanings packed into one.

Carroll’s use of portmanteau has been extended to include the amalgamation of one or more qualities into a single idea or notion This usage is illustrated by D. G. Hoffman, as cited in Webster’s Third:

Its central character is a portmanteau figure whose traits are derived from several mythical heroes.

red-flag term A word whose associations trigger an automatic response of anger, belligerence, defensiveness, etc.; an inflammatory catchphrase. A red flag has long been the symbol of revolutionary insurgents. To wave the red flag is to incite to violence. In addition, it is conventionally believed that a bull becomes enraged and aroused to attack by the waving of a red cape. All these uses are interrelated and serve as possible antecedents of red-flag used adjectivally to describe incendiary language.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.language - a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbolslanguage - a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols; "he taught foreign languages"; "the language introduced is standard throughout the text"; "the speed with which a program can be executed depends on the language in which it is written"
communication - something that is communicated by or to or between people or groups
usage - the customary manner in which a language (or a form of a language) is spoken or written; "English usage"; "a usage borrowed from French"
dead language - a language that is no longer learned as a native language
words - language that is spoken or written; "he has a gift for words"; "she put her thoughts into words"
source language - a language that is to be translated into another language
target language, object language - the language into which a text written in another language is to be translated
accent mark, accent - a diacritical mark used to indicate stress or placed above a vowel to indicate a special pronunciation
sign language, signing - language expressed by visible hand gestures
artificial language - a language that is deliberately created for a specific purpose
metalanguage - a language that can be used to describe languages
native language - the language that a person has spoken from earliest childhood
indigenous language - a language that originated in a specified place and was not brought to that place from elsewhere
superstrate, superstratum - the language of a later invading people that is imposed on an indigenous population and contributes features to their language
natural language, tongue - a human written or spoken language used by a community; opposed to e.g. a computer language
interlanguage, lingua franca, koine - a common language used by speakers of different languages; "Koine is a dialect of ancient Greek that was the lingua franca of the empire of Alexander the Great and was widely spoken throughout the eastern Mediterranean area in Roman times"
linguistic string, string of words, word string - a linear sequence of words as spoken or written
expressive style, style - a way of expressing something (in language or art or music etc.) that is characteristic of a particular person or group of people or period; "all the reporters were expected to adopt the style of the newspaper"
barrage, bombardment, onslaught, outpouring - the rapid and continuous delivery of linguistic communication (spoken or written); "a barrage of questions"; "a bombardment of mail complaining about his mistake"
speech communication, spoken communication, spoken language, voice communication, oral communication, speech, language - (language) communication by word of mouth; "his speech was garbled"; "he uttered harsh language"; "he recorded the spoken language of the streets"
slanguage - language characterized by excessive use of slang or cant
alphabetize - provide with an alphabet; "Cyril and Method alphabetized the Slavic languages"
synchronic - concerned with phenomena (especially language) at a particular period without considering historical antecedents; "synchronic linguistics"
diachronic, historical - used of the study of a phenomenon (especially language) as it changes through time; "diachronic linguistics"
2.language - (language) communication by word of mouthlanguage - (language) communication by word of mouth; "his speech was garbled"; "he uttered harsh language"; "he recorded the spoken language of the streets"
language, linguistic communication - a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols; "he taught foreign languages"; "the language introduced is standard throughout the text"; "the speed with which a program can be executed depends on the language in which it is written"
auditory communication - communication that relies on hearing
words - the words that are spoken; "I listened to his words very closely"
orthoepy, pronunciation - the way a word or a language is customarily spoken; "the pronunciation of Chinese is difficult for foreigners"; "that is the correct pronunciation"
conversation - the use of speech for informal exchange of views or ideas or information etc.
give-and-take, discussion, word - an exchange of views on some topic; "we had a good discussion"; "we had a word or two about it"
locution, saying, expression - a word or phrase that particular people use in particular situations; "pardon the expression"
non-standard speech - speech that differs from the usual accepted, easily recognizable speech of native adult members of a speech community
idiolect - the language or speech of one individual at a particular period in life
monologue - a long utterance by one person (especially one that prevents others from participating in the conversation)
magic spell, magical spell, charm, spell - a verbal formula believed to have magical force; "he whispered a spell as he moved his hands"; "inscribed around its base is a charm in Balinese"
dictation - speech intended for reproduction in writing
monologue, soliloquy - speech you make to yourself
3.language - the text of a popular song or musical-comedy number; "his compositions always started with the lyrics"; "he wrote both words and music"; "the song uses colloquial language"
text, textual matter - the words of something written; "there were more than a thousand words of text"; "they handed out the printed text of the mayor's speech"; "he wants to reconstruct the original text"
song, vocal - a short musical composition with words; "a successful musical must have at least three good songs"
love lyric - the lyric of a love song
4.language - the cognitive processes involved in producing and understanding linguistic communication; "he didn't have the language to express his feelings"
higher cognitive process - cognitive processes that presuppose the availability of knowledge and put it to use
reading - the cognitive process of understanding a written linguistic message; "his main reading was detective stories"; "suggestions for further reading"
5.language - the mental faculty or power of vocal communication; "language sets homo sapiens apart from all other animals"
faculty, mental faculty, module - one of the inherent cognitive or perceptual powers of the mind
lexis - all of the words in a language; all word forms having meaning or grammatical function
lexicon, mental lexicon, vocabulary - a language user's knowledge of words
verbalise, verbalize - convert into a verb; "many English nouns have become verbalized"
6.language - a system of words used to name things in a particular disciplinelanguage - a system of words used to name things in a particular discipline; "legal terminology"; "biological nomenclature"; "the language of sociology"
word - a unit of language that native speakers can identify; "words are the blocks from which sentences are made"; "he hardly said ten words all morning"
markup language - a set of symbols and rules for their use when doing a markup of a document
toponomy, toponymy - the nomenclature of regional anatomy
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


1. tongue, speech, vocabulary, dialect, idiom, vernacular, patter, lingo (informal), patois, lingua franca the English language
2. vocabulary, tongue, jargon, terminology, idiom, cant, lingo (informal), argot the language of business
4. style, wording, expression, phrasing, vocabulary, usage, parlance, diction, phraseology a booklet summarising it in plain language
"Language is the dress of thought" [Samuel Johnson Lives of the English Poets: Cowley]
"After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?" [Russell Hoban The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz]
"Languages are the pedigrees of nations" [Samuel Johnson]
"A language is a dialect with an army and a navy" [Max Weinrich]
"One does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a language. That is our country, our fatherland - and no other" [E.M. Cioran Anathemas and Admirations]
"Everything can change, but not the language that we carry inside us, like a world more exclusive and final than one's mother's womb" [Italo Calvino By Way of an Autobiography]
"To God I speak Spanish, to women Italian, to men French, and to my horse - German" [attributed to Emperor Charles V]
"In language, the ignorant have prescribed laws to the learned" [Richard Duppa Maxims]
"Language is fossil poetry" [Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays: Nominalist and Realist]


African Languages  Adamawa, Afrikaans, Akan, Amharic, Bambara, Barotse, Bashkir, Bemba, Berber, Chewa, Chichewa, Coptic, Damara, Duala, Dyula, Edo, Bini, or Beni, Ewe, Fanagalo or Fanakalo, Fang, Fanti, Fula, Fulah, or Fulani, Ga or Gã, Galla, Ganda, Griqua or Grikwa, Hausa, Herero, Hottentot, Hutu, Ibibio or Efik, Ibo or Igbo, Kabyle, Kikuyu, Kingwana, Kirundi, Kongo, Krio, Lozi, Luba or Tshiluba, Luganda, Luo, Malagasy, Malinke or Maninke, Masai, Matabele, Mossi or Moore, Nama or Namaqua, Ndebele, Nuba, Nupe, Nyanja, Nyoro, Ovambo, Pedi or Northern Sotho, Pondo, Rwanda, Sango, Sesotho, Shona, Somali, Songhai, Sotho, Susu, Swahili, Swazi, Temne, Tigré, Tigrinya, Tiv, Tonga, Tsonga, Tswana, Tuareg, Twi or (formerly) Ashanti, Venda, Wolof, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zulu
Asian Languages  Abkhaz, Abkhazi, or Abkhazian, Adygei or Adyghe, Afghan, Ainu, Arabic, Aramaic, Armenian, Assamese, Azerbaijani, Bahasa Indonesia, Balinese, Baluchi or Balochi, Bengali, Bihari, Brahui, Burmese, Buryat or Buriat, Cantonese, Chukchee or Chukchi, Chuvash, Chinese, Cham, Circassian, Dinka, Divehi, Dzongka, Evenki, Farsi, Filipino, Gondi, Gujarati or Gujerati, Gurkhali, Hebrew, Hindi, Hindustani, Hindoostani, or Hindostani, Iranian, Japanese, Javanese, Kabardian, Kafiri, Kalmuck or Kalmyk, Kannada, Kanarese, or Canarese, Kara-Kalpak, Karen, Kashmiri, Kazakh or Kazak, Kazan Tatar, Khalkha, Khmer, Kirghiz, Korean, Kurdish, Lahnda, Lao, Lepcha, Malay, Malayalam or Malayalaam, Manchu, Mandarin, Marathi or Mahratti, Mishmi, Mon, Mongol, Mongolian, Moro, Naga, Nepali, Nuri, Oriya, Ossetian or Ossetic, Ostyak, Pashto, Pushto, or Pushtu, Punjabi, Shan, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Sogdian, Tadzhiki or Tadzhik, Tagalog, Tamil, Tatar, Telugu or Telegu, Thai, Tibetan, Tungus, Turkmen, Turkoman or Turkman, Uigur or Uighur, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Yakut
Australasian Languages  Aranda, Beach-la-Mar, Dinka, Fijian, Gurindji, Hawaiian, Hiri Motu, kamilaroi, Krio, Maori, Moriori, Motu, Nauruan, Neo-Melanesian, Papuan, Pintubi, Police Motu, Samoan, Solomon Islands Pidgin, Tongan, Tuvaluan, Warlpiri
European Languages  Albanian, Alemannic, Basque, Bohemian, Bokmål, Breton, Bulgarian, Byelorussian, Castilian, Catalan, Cheremiss or Cheremis, Cornish, Croatian, Cymric or Kymric, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Erse, Estonian, Faeroese, Finnish, Flemish, French, Frisian, Friulian, Gaelic, Gagauzi, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Karelian, Komi, Ladin, Ladino, Lallans or Lallan, Lapp, Latvian or Lettish, Lithuanian, Lusatian, Macedonian, Magyar, Maltese, Manx, Mingrelian or Mingrel, Mordvin, Norwegian, Nynorsk or Landsmål, Polish, Portuguese, Provençal, Romanian, Romansch or Romansh, Romany or Romanes, Russian, Samoyed, Sardinian, Serbo-Croat or Serbo-Croatian, Shelta, Slovak, Slovene, Sorbian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Udmurt, Ukrainian, Vogul, Votyak, Welsh, Yiddish, Zyrian
North American Languages  Abnaki, Aleut or Aleutian, Algonquin or Algonkin, Apache, Arapaho, Assiniboine, Blackfoot, Caddoan, Catawba, Cayuga, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Chinook, Choctaw, Comanche, Creek, Crow, Delaware, Erie, Eskimo, Fox, Haida, Hopi, Huron, Inuktitut, Iroquois, Kwakiutl, Mahican or Mohican, Massachuset or Massachusetts, Menomini, Micmac, Mixtec, Mohave or Mojave, Mohawk, Narraganset or Narragansett, Navaho or Navajo, Nez Percé, Nootka, Ojibwa, Okanagan, Okanogan, or Okinagan, Oneida, Onondaga, Osage, Paiute or Piute, Pawnee, Pequot, Sahaptin, Sahaptan, or Sahaptian, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee, Shoshone or Shoshoni, Sioux, Tahltan, Taino, Tlingit, Tuscarora, Ute, Winnebago, Zuñi
South American Languages  Araucanian, Aymara, Chibchan, Galibi, Guarani, Nahuatl, Quechua, Kechua, or Quichua, Tupi, Zapotec
Ancient Languages  Akkadian, Ancient Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Assyrian, Avar, Avestan or Avestic, Aztec, Babylonian, Canaanite, Celtiberian, Chaldee, Edomite, Egyptian, Elamite, Ethiopic, Etruscan, Faliscan, Frankish, Gallo-Romance or Gallo-Roman, Ge'ez, Gothic, Hebrew, Himyaritic, Hittite, Illyrian, Inca, Ionic, Koine, Langobardic, langue d'oc, langue d'oïl, Latin, Libyan, Lycian, Lydian, Maya or Mayan, Messapian or Messapïc, Norn, Old Church Slavonic, Old High German, Old Norse, Old Prussian, Oscan, Osco-Umbrian, Pahlavi or Pehlevi, Pali, Phoenician, Phrygian, Pictish, Punic, Sabaean or Sabean, Sabellian, Sanskrit, Scythian, Sumerian, Syriac, Thracian, Thraco-Phrygian, Tocharian or Tokharian, Ugaritic, Umbrian, Vedic, Venetic, Volscian, Wendish
Artificial Languages  Esperanto, Ido, interlingua, Volapuk or Volapük
Language Groups  Afro-Asiatic, Albanian, Algonquian or Algonkian, Altaic, Anatolian, Athapascan, Athapaskan, Athabascan, or Athabaskan, Arawakan, Armenian, Australian, Austro-Asiatic, Austronesian, Baltic, Bantu, Benue-Congo, Brythonic, Caddoan, Canaanitic, Carib, Caucasian, Celtic, Chadic, Chari-Nile, Cushitic, Cymric, Dardic, Dravidian, East Germanic, East Iranian, Eskimo, Finnic, Germanic, Gur, Hamitic, Hamito-Semitic, Hellenic, Hindustani, Indic, Indo-Aryan, Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Pacific, Iranian, Iroquoian, Italic, Khoisan, Kordofanian, Kwa, Malayo-Polynesian, Mande, Mayan, Melanesian, Micronesian, Mongolic, Mon-Khmer, Munda, Muskogean or Muskhogean, Na-Dene or Na-Déné, Nguni, Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Norse, North Germanic, Oceanic, Pahari, Pama-Nyungan, Penutian, Polynesian, Rhaetian, Romance, Saharan, Salish or Salishan, San, Sanskritic, Semi-Bantu, Semitic, Semito-Hamitic, Shoshonean, Siouan, Sinitic, Sino-Tibetan, Slavonic, Sudanic, Tibeto-Burman, Trans-New Guinea phylum, Tungusic, Tupi-Guarani, Turkic, Ugric, Uralic, Uto-Aztecan, Voltaic, Wakashan, West Atlantic, West Germanic, West Iranian, West Slavonic, Yuman
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


1. A system of terms used by a people sharing a history and culture:
Linguistics: langue.
2. Specialized expressions indigenous to a particular field, subject, trade, or subculture:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
اللغهلِسانلُغَةٌلُغَة خاصَّه
tungumálfagmálmálmál, tungumál
valodaizteiksmes veids
ngôn ngữ


A. N
1. (= faculty, style of speech) → lenguaje m
the tone of his language was diplomatic and politese expresó de forma diplomática y educada
2. (= national tongue) → lengua f, idioma m
the Spanish languagela lengua española, el idioma español
he studies languagesestudia idiomas or lenguas
she can speak six languageshabla seis idiomas
first languagelengua f materna
modern languageslenguas fpl modernas
we don't talk the same languageno hablamos el mismo idioma
3. (= means of expression) → lenguaje m
in plain languageen lenguaje sencillo
legal/technical languagelenguaje m jurídico/técnico
the language of violenceel lenguaje de la violencia
4. (Comput) → lenguaje m
computer languagelenguaje m de ordenador or (LAm) computador(a)
5. (= swear words) watch your languageno digas palabrotas
that's no language to use to your mother!¡así no se habla a tu madre!
bad languagepalabrotas fpl, lenguaje m grosero
see also strong A9
B. CPD language acquisition Nadquisición f del lenguaje
language barrier Nbarrera f del idioma
language degree Ntítulo m en idiomas
language development Ndesarrollo m lingüístico
language laboratory Nlaboratorio m de idiomas
language school Nacademia f de idiomas
language skills NPL (with foreign languages) → facilidad f para los idiomas
language student Nestudiante mf de idiomas
language studies NPLestudios mpl de idiomas
language teacher Nprofesor(a) m/f de idiomas
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[country] → langue f
French isn't a difficult language → Le français n'est pas une langue difficile.
I can speak six languages → Je parle six langues.
the English language → la langue anglaise
[poet, writer] → langue f
[discipline, milieu] → langage m
(= ability to speak) → langage m
Students examined how children acquire language → Les étudiants examinèrent l'acquisition du langage par les enfants. bad language, plain language
modif [course, class, teacher] → de langue language development, language skillslanguage barrier nbarrière f de la languelanguage development ndéveloppement m du langagelanguage laboratory nlaboratoire m de langueslanguage school nécole f de languelanguage skills nplcompétences fpl linguistiques
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


nSprache f; the English languageEnglisch nt, → die englische Sprache; a book on languageein Buch über die Sprache; philosophy of languageSprachphilosophie f; the language of business/diplomacydie Sprache der Geschäftswelt/Diplomatie; the language of flowersdie Blumensprache; to study languagesSprachen studieren; your language is appallingdeine Ausdrucksweise ist entsetzlich, du drückst dich entsetzlich aus; that’s no language to use to your mother!so spricht man nicht mit seiner Mutter!; it’s a bloody nuisance! — language!verfluchter Mist! — na, so was sagt man doch nicht!; bad languageKraftausdrücke pl; strong languageSchimpfwörter pl, → derbe Ausdrücke pl; (= forceful language)starke Worte pl; he used strong language, calling them fascist pigser beschimpfte sie als Faschistenschweine; the request/complaint was put in rather strong languagedie Aufforderung/Beschwerde hörte sich ziemlich krass an; putting it in plain language (= simply)einfach ausgedrückt; (= bluntly)um es ganz direkt or ohne Umschweife zu sagen, …; to talk somebody’s languagejds Sprache sprechen; to talk the same language (as somebody)die gleiche Sprache (wie jd) sprechen


language barrier
nSprachbarriere f
language course
nSprachkurs(us) m
language lab(oratory)
nSprachlabor nt
language learning
nSprachenlernen nt
adj facilities, skillszum Sprachenlernen
language teacher
nSprachlehrer(in) m(f)
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈlæŋgwɪdʒ] n (faculty, style of speech) → linguaggio; (national tongue, also) (fig) → lingua
the Italian language → la lingua italiana
legal/scientific language → linguaggio legale/scientifico
we don't speak the same language (fig) → non parliamo la stessa lingua
to use bad language → dire parolacce, usare un linguaggio volgare
watch your language! → attento a come parli!
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(ˈlӕŋgwidʒ) noun
1. human speech. the development of language in children.
2. the speech of a particular nation. She is very good at (learning) languages; Russian is a difficult language.
3. the words and way of speaking, writing etc usually connected with a particular group of people etc. the language of journalists; medical language.
bad language noun
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


لُغَةٌ jazyk sprog Sprache γλώσσα idioma, lenguaje kieli langue jezik linguaggio 言葉 언어 taal språk język língua язык språk ภาษา dil ngôn ngữ 语言
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009


n. lenguaje;
___ skillshabilidades lingüísticas.
English-Spanish Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


n (referring to structure and development) lenguaje m; body — lenguaje corporal
English-Spanish/Spanish-English Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
If we confine ourselves to spoken words, a word has two aspects, according as we regard it from the point of view of the speaker or from that of the hearer.
It was understood that he had often spoken words of love to Madame Ratignolle, without any thought of being taken seriously.
The spoken words that are inaudible among the flying spindles; those same words are plainly heard without the walls, bursting from the opened casements.
The words were still in his hearing as just spoken--distinctly in his hearing as ever spoken words had been in his life--when the weary passenger started to the consciousness of daylight, and found that the shadows of the night were gone.
This power is wonderfully developed in all Martians, and accounts largely for the simplicity of their language and the relatively few spoken words exchanged even in long conversations.
He tried to recall her soft suggestive whispers, the glances which promised more even than her spoken words, all the perfume and mystery of her wonderful presence.
In everything save the spoken words I crave she has promised me her love.
Acting on this plan, I filled in each blank space on the paper, with what the words or phrases on either side of it suggested to me as the speaker's meaning; altering over and over again, until my additions followed naturally on the spoken words which came before them, and fitted naturally into the spoken words which came after them.
When he was a little boy, he had heard that there were things that obeyed the spoken word!
The Book of Army Management says: On the field of battle, the spoken word does not carry far enough: hence the institution of gongs and drums.
First of all Jerry learned a new name for himself, which was Bao, and he was taught to respond to it from an ever-increasing distance no matter how softly it was uttered, and Nalasu continued to utter it more softly until it no longer was a spoken word, but a whisper.
"All I can say, General," said he with a pleasant elegance of expression and intonation that obliged one to listen to each deliberately spoken word. It was evident that Kutuzov himself listened with pleasure to his own voice.