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

As the role of English as pop’s lingua franca is changing, artists like Bad Bunny, Rosalía or BTS have found international success singing in their own languages. Julia Webster, Time, "This Italian-Egyptian Singer Was Attacked By Populist Politicians. His Groundbreaking Success Is Silencing Critics," 11 Sep. 2019 Cantonese, Hong Kong’s lingua franca, is complicated enough with its nine tones. Time, "Hong Kong's Protestors Have Their Own Special Slang. Here's a Glossary of Some Common Terms," 6 Sep. 2019 This became part of the lingua franca of modern music. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Endless, Grisly Fascination of Richard Strauss’s “Salome”," 21 Aug. 2019 Cantonese is the lingua franca of Hong Kong, and language is intimately tied to Hong Kongers’ identity as one that is distinct from the mostly Mandarin-speaking mainland. Mary Hui, Quartz, "Cantonese is Hong Kong protesters’ power tool of satire and identity," 20 June 2019 Written almost exclusively in Latin, the international lingua franca of late-medieval Europe, the books that poured from the pen of this restlessly mobile citizen of the world were directed to the reform of his own era and have not aged well. Eamon Duffy, The New York Review of Books, "The World Split in Two," 18 Apr. 2019 Today, however, the explosion of computing power has enabled many more people to gather information and analyze it quickly, which has allowed the lingua franca of the market to become more sophisticated. David Leonhardt, New York Times, "What Data Has Done to Capitalism," 7 June 2018 Labels from Comme des Garçons and Maison Margiela signed on with the Swedish fast-fashion giant in his wake, and collaborations remain the lingua franca of the fashion industry to this day. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Legendary Designer Karl Lagerfeld Has Died," 19 Feb. 2019 That’s created a kind of lingua franca, a base level of understanding among a large group of people about the experience of playing the game. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "Fortnite was 2018’s most important social network," 21 Dec. 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near lingua franca




lingua franca

lingua geral



Statistics for lingua franca

Last Updated

8 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for lingua franca

The first known use of lingua franca was in 1619

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More Definitions for lingua franca

lingua franca


English Language Learners Definition of lingua franca

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

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

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