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 effort failed in the final hours of the 2021 session, after legislative leaders discussed the possibility of attaching the language to another bill, according to the Courier Journal. Julia Fair, The Enquirer, "Brent Spence Bridge: How this week may have changed the future of Greater Cincinnati's biggest project," 1 Apr. 2021 Her mother speaks Korean and finding a therapist in San Diego who speaks the same language was challenging. Marissa Evans, Los Angeles Times, "After Atlanta-area attacks, Asian communities reckon with mental health crises," 31 Mar. 2021 The clean electricity standard language stands out in Biden’s plan, which is otherwise largely a massive spending measure — electrifying transportation, supporting renewable and low-carbon energy deployment, and boosting clean energy manufacturing. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: The major emissions policy Biden tucked into his infrastructure spending plan," 31 Mar. 2021 All of it is going to happen with the words and the language and what is going on in an internal aspect for the character. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "Inside the Williamstown Theatre Festival's Unexpected, Inventive New Season," 30 Mar. 2021 Representatives from education groups criticized the bill, saying the open enrollment language could lead to segregated and inequitable school districts. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, "After uncertainty, Kentucky legislature overrides Beshear veto of school choice measure," 30 Mar. 2021 The Navajo language was spoken by few non-Navajos and was not written, making the new code that much more difficult to decipher. Rachel Trent, CNN, "A new state holiday in Arizona will honor the Navajo Code Talkers whose language formed a secret code to save lives," 30 Mar. 2021 But the language doesn’t appear to allow that no electors would be appointed at all. Washington Post, "Even the GOP’s three best arguments against D.C. statehood don’t stand up to scrutiny," 29 Mar. 2021 Despite the language in the governor's executive order, Whitmer's office argues no nursing homes were ever forced to take COVID-19 patients. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "Complaint: Lucido's previous attacks on Whitmer make impartial investigation impossible," 29 Mar. 2021

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

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Language.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for language



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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