col·​lo·​qui·​al | \ kə-ˈlō-kwē-əl How to pronounce colloquial (audio) \

Definition of colloquial

1a : used in or characteristic of familiar and informal conversation In colloquial English, "kind of" is often used for "somewhat" or "rather." also : unacceptably informal
b : using conversational style a colloquial writer
2 : of or relating to conversation : conversational colloquial expressions

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Other Words from colloquial

colloquial noun
colloquiality \ kə-​ˌlō-​kwē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce colloquial (audio) \ noun
colloquially \ kə-​ˈlō-​kwē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce colloquial (audio) \ adverb

Did You Know?

The noun colloquy was first used in English to refer to a conversation or dialogue, and when the adjective colloquial was formed from colloquy it had a similar focus. Over time, however, colloquial developed a more specific meaning related to language that is most suited to informal conversation - and it ultimately garnered an additional, disparaging implication of a style that seems too informal for a situation. Colloquy and colloquial trace back to the Latin verb colloqui, meaning "to converse." Colloqui in turn was formed by combining the prefix com- and loqui, "to speak." Other conversational descendants of loqui in English include "circumlocution," eloquent, loquacious,soliloquy, and ventriloquism.

Examples of colloquial in a Sentence

But I think part of this pickle that we're in—if I may be colloquial, even though I'm not running for office—is that we've lost their sense of responsibility. — Sarah Vowell, Entertainment Weekly, 24 Oct. 2008 Langston was the merriest and the most colloquial of them all. "Best party I've ever been given!" he said. — Gwendolyn Brooks, Booklist, 15 Oct. 1993 Mr. Salisbury's firsthand account is written in a fast-paced, chaotic and colloquial style, which often feels confused and hastily set down. — Susan Shapiro, New York Times Book Review, 10 Sept. 1989 Although in the circle of his friends, where he might be unreserved with safety, he took a free share in conversation, his colloquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words. — Thomas Jefferson, letter, 2 Jan. 1814 the new coworker's rudeness soon began—to use a colloquial expression—to rub me the wrong way a colloquial essay on what makes a marriage successful
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Recent Examples on the Web Cantonese, the slangy, colloquial language of Hong Kong that all but requires an irreverent attitude to be spoken authentically, is one of the cultural elements that many fear is under threat. Laurel Chor, National Geographic, "Hong Kong mourns the end of its way of life as China cracks down on dissent," 1 Sep. 2020 Eventually, Wilson found the majesty in Black colloquial language, which had the same obstinate sense of dignity as his structures and characters. New York Times, "August Wilson, American Bard," 3 Dec. 2020 In an interview with S. V. Date, of HuffPost, Paul S. Ryan, a campaign-finance lawyer at the watchdog group Common Cause, used more colloquial language. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump’s Latest Grift May Be His Most Cynical Yet," 3 Dec. 2020 Trumpism is now rooted in the lexicon, and although white supremacy may be the better, more clinical term for what ails America, Trumpism is a useful, colloquial alternative. Washington Post, "Trumpism is a lifestyle disease, chronic in America," 6 Nov. 2020 Over the years, Marbrook has mastered a warmly colloquial voice — the poems feel near and dear as an old friend speaking — delivering the philosophical ruminations of a life rich in experience and wonder. Djelloul Marbrook, New York Times, "The next what-have-you," 25 Nov. 2020 Deaf Americans are picking a new name for President-elect Joe Biden in colloquial American Sign Language. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Essential California: The Senate guessing game," 11 Nov. 2020 The 48-year-old appellate court judge declared her conservative views with often colloquial language, but refused many specifics. Lisa Mascaro, Star Tribune, "Barrett unscathed by tough Democratic confirmation probing," 13 Oct. 2020 Nor about his purportedly clever comeback, in correct colloquial Arabic, after Trump promised yet again to one day release his tax returns. David Banks, Star Tribune, "Slivers of information about Biden from the debate," 2 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'colloquial.' 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 colloquial

1751, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for colloquial

see colloquy

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Time Traveler for colloquial

Time Traveler

The first known use of colloquial was in 1751

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Statistics for colloquial

Last Updated

24 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Colloquial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for colloquial


How to pronounce colloquial (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of colloquial

: used when people are speaking in an informal way
: using an informal style


col·​lo·​qui·​al | \ kə-ˈlō-kwē-əl How to pronounce colloquial (audio) \

Kids Definition of colloquial

: used in or suited to familiar and informal conversation colloquial language

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