lan·​guage | \ ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio) , -wij \

Definition of language

1a : the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community studied the French language
b(1) : audible, articulate, meaningful sound as produced by the action of the vocal organs
(2) : a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings the language of mathematics
(3) : the suggestion by objects, actions, or conditions of associated ideas or feelings language in their very gesture— William Shakespeare
(4) : the means by which animals communicate the language of birds
(5) : a formal system of signs and symbols (such as FORTRAN or a calculus in logic) including rules for the formation and transformation of admissible expressions
2a : form or manner of verbal expression specifically : style the beauty of Shakespeare's language
b : the vocabulary and phraseology belonging to an art or a department of knowledge the language of diplomacy medical language
c : profanity shouldn't of blamed the fellers if they'd cut loose with some language— Ring Lardner
3 : the study of language especially as a school subject earned a grade of B in language
4 : specific words especially in a law or regulation The police were diligent in enforcing the language of the law.

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Examples of language in a Sentence

How many languages do you speak? French is her first language. The book has been translated into several languages. He's learning English as a second language. a new word that has recently entered the language the formal language of the report the beauty of Shakespeare's language She expressed her ideas using simple and clear language. He is always careful in his use of language.
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Recent Examples on the Web Madigan said the county planned to update its website and include more precise language. Cory Shaffer, cleveland, "Couple shot with projectiles while photographing Justice Center damage during Cleveland protests: ‘it felt like we were just target practice’," 24 June 2020 Initially, the bill would have prohibited the transfer of COVID-19 patients into nursing homes, but the language was relaxed. David Eggert, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan Senate wants facilities for less-sick COVID-19 patients," 24 June 2020 Yet the sides differed over language that stipulated the salary agreement would be revisited if games were played without fans in stadiums. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Major League Baseball implements 60-game 2020 season as players agree on safety protocols," 24 June 2020 But no sooner was the mask policy unveiled May 27 than it was quietly pulled back and rewritten to tone down the language about the role BART police would play in enforcing the rule. Phil Matier,, "BART tones down its planned policing of mask-wearing requirement," 24 June 2020 Scott also added language clarifying that publicly reported political campaign contributions are not considered gifts and therefor exempt from the policy. Lorraine Longhi, azcentral, "Scottsdale rejects ban on anonymous donations, including GoFundMe campaigns, to council members," 22 June 2020 While lawyers who’ve reviewed these cases and policies are unclear on what inspired moral character provisions in job licensing regulations, similar language has been used in laws designed to block Black people from voting. NBC News, "Want to wax eyebrows in Pennsylvania? You have to be a good person. This 'oppressive' law says so.," 22 June 2020 The app intelligently detects the language spoken and allows two people to have a conversation in close to real-time. Popular Science, "All the big announcements from Apple’s 2020 WWDC keynote," 22 June 2020 The inclusion of the clean energy tax credit language follows increasing pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from rank-and-file Democrats to include aid to the renewable energy sector in coronavirus relief efforts. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "House Democrats include wind and solar tax credit extensions in sweeping infrastructure bill," 22 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'language.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of language

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for language

Middle English, from Anglo-French langage, from lange, langue tongue, language, from Latin lingua — more at tongue

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Time Traveler for language

Time Traveler

The first known use of language was in the 14th century

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Statistics for language

Last Updated

27 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Language.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for language


How to pronounce language (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of language

: the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other
: any one of the systems of human language that are used and understood by a particular group of people
: words of a particular kind


lan·​guage | \ ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio) \

Kids Definition of language

1 : the words and expressions used and understood by a large group of people the English language
2 : spoken or written words of a particular kind She used simple and clear language.
3 : a means of expressing ideas or feelings sign language
4 : a formal system of signs and symbols that is used to carry information a computer language
5 : the special words used by a certain group or in a certain field the language of science
6 : the study of languages

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