lingua franca

lin·​gua fran·​ca | \ ˈliŋ-gwə-ˈfraŋ-kə How to pronounce lingua franca (audio) \
plural lingua francas or linguae francae\ ˈliŋ-​gwē-​ˈfraŋ-​(ˌ)kē How to pronounce linguae francae (audio) \

Definition of lingua franca

1 often capitalized : a common language consisting of Italian mixed with French, Spanish, Greek, and Arabic that was formerly spoken in Mediterranean ports
2 : any of various languages used as common or commercial tongues among peoples of diverse speech English is used as a lingua franca among many airline pilots.
3 : something resembling a common language movies are the lingua franca of the twentieth century— Gore Vidal

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Did You Know?

In the Middle Ages, the Arabs of the eastern Mediterranean referred to all Europeans as Franks (the name of the tribe that once occupied the land we call France). Since there was plenty of Arab-European trade, the traders in the Mediterranean ports eventually developed a trading language combining Italian, Arabic, and other languages, which almost everyone could more or less understand, and it became known as the "Frankish language", or lingua franca. Some languages actually succeed in becoming lingua francas without changing much. So, when the Roman empire became vast and mighty, Latin became the important lingua franca; and at a meeting between Japanese and Vietnamese businesspeople today, English may well be the only language spoken.

Examples of lingua franca in a Sentence

English is used as a lingua franca among many airline pilots.
Recent Examples on the Web More than just cute pictures, these digital icons are a lingua franca for the digital age. Arielle Pardes, Wired, "The 👁👄👁 Debacle Sums Up Tech's Race Issues," 29 June 2020 Facebook doesn’t care about the animating spirit that guided the media industry during its formative years—that quest to forge a new and democratic lingua franca with an audience thirsting for new ideas, or simply to feel more at home in the world. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, "The Death of the Good Internet Was an Inside Job," 31 Dec. 2019 The bullying was constant, abusive language the lingua franca. Alex Bhattacharji, WSJ, "How Producer Jason Blum is Disrupting Hollywood," 16 July 2018 English is the lingua franca here but most of those living in the official camp walls and in the overspill areas are Afghan. 1843, "Life in Moria, Europe’s refugee city," 12 Mar. 2020 Globalization has produced a lingua franca of T-shirts and jeans, sweats and tracksuits, polo shirts and basketball shorts. Emily Witt, The New Yorker, "Telfar Clemens’s Mass Appeal," 9 Mar. 2020 That’s because, for better of worse, English has become the world’s lingua franca. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, "Europe’s largest economies are falling behind in English," 5 Nov. 2019 Acronyms are the lingua franca of government bureaucracy, and the US’ process for vetting foreign money poured into American firms is no exception: CFIUS, or the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Justin Sherman, Wired, "Governments Are Clamping Down On Foreign Tech Investments," 20 Feb. 2020 Swahili is the lingua franca among Kenya’s many ethnicities, though ironically the Swahili people are among those subject to vetting. Wired Opinion, Wired, "Digital IDs Make Systemic Bias Worse," 5 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lingua franca.' 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 lingua franca

1619, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for lingua franca

Italian, literally, Frankish language

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Time Traveler for lingua franca

Time Traveler

The first known use of lingua franca was in 1619

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Statistics for lingua franca

Last Updated

3 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Lingua franca.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for lingua franca

lingua franca

How to pronounce lingua franca (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of lingua franca

: a language that is used among people who speak various different languages

More from Merriam-Webster on lingua franca

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with lingua franca Encyclopedia article about lingua franca

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