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 The company uses algorithms to search within massive datasets for nuances in language that are otherwise difficult to identify. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, "Can We Trust the Polls?," 21 Oct. 2020 But in stark language, Briggs pointed to overwhelming evidence that Dexter is a danger and apparently attacked D’Aleo with provocation. Nicholas Rondinone,, "State rules dog that fatally mauled 95-year-old Enfield woman can be put down," 21 Oct. 2020 They’re all written in a foreign language only a hieroglyphic lawyer can decipher. J.d. Crowe |, al, "Ready to erase racist language from our state constitution? It starts with Amendment 4," 20 Oct. 2020 Still, some prominent Republicans have noted in newly direct language the possibility — and even the likelihood — of defeat for the president. Maggie Haberman, New York Times, "Trump Runs the Kind of Campaign He Likes, but Not the One He Might Need," 18 Oct. 2020 Almost unbelievably, the new indemnity provision would weaken OSHA’s already underwhelming Covid response—and in legislative language that would persist after the Trump administration was no longer running the agency. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, "The Media’s Both-Sides Brigade Is Wrong About the Covid-19 Stimulus Deal," 17 Oct. 2020 Some regional differences are also emerging in COVID-19 language. Roger J. Kreuz, CNN, "The pandemic is changing the English language," 16 Oct. 2020 In the original House language, the funding would come from federal COVID-19 relief money. Tyler Arnold, Washington Examiner, "Lawmakers intend to remove redistricting language from Virginia budget," 15 Oct. 2020 The video targets international fans with subtitles in nine language, with almost all of the song’s global streams and sales in the tracking week from outside the U.S. Eric Frankenberg, Billboard, "Japan Highlights Global Chart Debuts With New Songs by Joji, Bump of Chicken & King Gnu," 9 Oct. 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

25 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Language.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 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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