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 colloquiality (audio) \ noun
colloquially \ kə-​ˈlō-​kwē-​ə-​lē How to pronounce colloquially (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 The result, Vaccines are not an Opinion: Vaccinations Explained to Those Who Really Don't Want to Understand, was a novelty in a country where scientists rarely communicate in colloquial language. Douglas Starr, Science | AAAS, "This Italian scientist has become a celebrity by fighting vaccine skeptics," 2 Jan. 2020 Frost was notable for his colloquial writing style and admired for his depictions of rural New England., "Robert Frost, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, class of 1896," 13 Dec. 2019 Arabic has many dialects, each with its own distinct grammar constructions and words, so different communities have developed their own colloquial codes. Washington Post, "A guide to how gender-neutral language is developing around the world," 15 Dec. 2019 The Stanford team monitored a group of parrotlets, which is the colloquial term for a group of very small parrot species. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Five Birds Have Changed What We Know About How Animals—and Planes—Fly," 25 Nov. 2019 Their more colloquial argument was that there was nothing mysterious about wealth. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "The French Economist Who Helped Invent Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax," 19 Oct. 2019 Even bad language can sound more colloquial and informal, at least among the right audience. Kathryn Vasel, CNN, "We all do it. But is swearing at work really ok?," 22 July 2019 There are a few moments in the book, though, when Kendi uses the word in a more colloquial, less rigorous sense. Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker, "The Fight to Redefine Racism," 12 Aug. 2019 But its effects on deer, elk and others have inspired a creepier colloquial name: Zombie deer disease. Frank Sargeant,, "Calling all anglers: It’s catfish time in Alabama," 23 June 2019

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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Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Colloquial.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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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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Comments on colloquial

What made you want to look up colloquial? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


dull or mediocre

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