language

noun

lan·​guage ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio)
-wij
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 gestureWilliam 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 languageRing 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

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 This time around, backers of Proposition 64 inserted unambiguous language giving more power to employers, and the chamber was neutral on the initiative. Peter Hecht, Sacramento Bee, 21 Feb. 2024 So this non-deterministic nature of LLM output along with the inherent ambiguity and nuance of human language combine to produce an intractably large space of possible interactions. Aparna Dhinakaran, Forbes, 21 Feb. 2024 New York City, which has a reputation for explicit language, is at the center of this story. F. Vincent Vernuccio, National Review, 21 Feb. 2024 The Republican strategy included launching websites in all 50 states and in several different languages to increase voter outreach. Olivia Rinaldi, CBS News, 20 Feb. 2024 People hired to train algorithms in specific languages tend to get less. Morgan Meaker, WIRED, 20 Feb. 2024 The Bard-now-Gemini chatbot is now available in 40 languages and in more than 230 countries. Michelle Cheng, Quartz, 8 Feb. 2024 Discover a new perspective on language’s evolution, challenging traditional views and highlighting a continuum of communicative abilities. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Feb. 2024 The thing that has captured everyone’s imagination over the course of the last 14 months is generative AI, the ability of these large language models to deal in both in natural language, do amazing things with coding. Fortune Editors, Fortune, 7 Feb. 2024 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

Etymology

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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/language. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

language

noun
lan·​guage ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio)
1
a
: the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a large group of people
b
: a means of communicating ideas
sign language
2
: the means by which animals communicate or are thought to communicate with each other
language of the bees
3
: a system of signs and symbols and rules for using them that is used to carry information
BASIC is a computer language
4
: the way in which words are used
strong language
5
: the words and expressions of a particular group or field
the language of medicine
6
: the study of language
Etymology

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.

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