lan·​guage ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio)
: the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community
studied the French language
: audible, articulate, meaningful sound as produced by the action of the vocal organs
: 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
: the suggestion by objects, actions, or conditions of associated ideas or feelings
language in their very gestureWilliam Shakespeare
: the means by which animals communicate
the language of birds
: 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
: form or manner of verbal expression
specifically : style
the beauty of Shakespeare's language
: the vocabulary and phraseology belonging to an art or a department of knowledge
the language of diplomacy
medical language
: profanity
shouldn't of blamed the fellers if they'd cut loose with some languageRing Lardner
: the study of language especially as a school subject
earned a grade of B in language
: specific words especially in a law or regulation
The police were diligent in enforcing the language of the law.

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web They will be offered support and resources, including water, transportation, medical and mental health care and language assistance, Maui officials said. Holly Yan, CNN, 25 Sep. 2023 Nuanced language and cancel-free ways to reason about it will emerge. WIRED, 25 Sep. 2023 Writers strike negotiations hung up on language over AI as talks continue Striking WGA and SAG-AFTRA members outside Paramount Studios in Los Angeles on Monday. Josh Feldman, NBC News, 24 Sep. 2023 Studio-side sources familiar with the negotiations say that the two parties are very close to reaching a final compromise and the studio side continues to work on language regarding regulations on artificial intelligence. Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Sep. 2023 The members of the group had a lot of different ideas about what language the lyrics should be in. Billboard Japan, Billboard, 22 Sep. 2023 Some engineers and startup founders have gone further, starting their own projects using large language models, including the one behind ChatGPT, to create AI agents with broader and more advanced capabilities. WIRED, 19 Sep. 2023 The premiere of an English language version of Germany’s runaway musical hit (by bookwriter and lyricist Michael Kunze and composer Sylvester Levay) comes at a considerable production cost, immediately made plain by the 19-strong cast and the 18-piece band. David Benedict, Variety, 19 Sep. 2023 Trumbore carefully assembled lines from contemporary American poets Barbara Crooker, Laura Foley and Amy Fleury, setting them in a lush harmonic language that at times recalls her teacher Morten Lauridsen’s sonorities. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'language.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near language

Cite this Entry

“Language.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


lan·​guage ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio)
: the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a large group of people
: a means of communicating ideas
sign language
: the means by which animals communicate or are thought to communicate with each other
language of the bees
: a system of signs and symbols and rules for using them that is used to carry information
BASIC is a computer language
: the way in which words are used
strong language
: the words and expressions of a particular group or field
the language of medicine
: the study of language

Middle English language "language," from early French language (same meaning), from langue "language, tongue," from Latin lingua "tongue, language"

Word Origin
The tongue plays an important part in human speech. Different sounds are made by different positions of the tongue. The tongue and speech are so closely connected that in many languages the word that means "tongue" also means "language." This is true in English, as when we say "she spoke a foreign tongue." It was also true in Latin, where the word lingua meant both "tongue" and "language." From the Latin lingua came the early French langue, meaning "tongue, language," which gave rise to the early French word language. The English word language comes directly from this early French word.

More from Merriam-Webster on language

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