noun lan·guage \ ˈlaŋ-gwij , -wij \
|Updated on: 11 Aug 2018

Definition of language

1 a : 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
2 a : 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.

Examples of language in a Sentence

  1. How many languages do you speak?

  2. French is her first language.

  3. The book has been translated into several languages.

  4. He's learning English as a second language.

  5. a new word that has recently entered the language

  6. the formal language of the report

  7. the beauty of Shakespeare's language

  8. She expressed her ideas using simple and clear language.

  9. He is always careful in his use of language.

Recent Examples of language from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of language

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

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

LANGUAGE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of language for English Language Learners

  • : 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

LANGUAGE Defined for Kids


noun lan·guage \ ˈlaŋ-gwij \

Definition of language for Students

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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