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

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 Girona is a strong seat of the Catalan independence movement, and Catalan, not Spanish, is the lingua franca of the festival. Judy Cantor-navas, Billboard, "Clownia: Global Bands Come Together in Catalonia for a Summer Feel-Better Festival," 5 July 2018 In a January interview with GQ, ASAP Ferg talked about hip-hop’s emergence as pop’s lingua franca and the genre’s musical plateau. Leor Galil, Chicago Reader, "ASAP Ferg shows he’s the real boss in ASAP Mob," 5 July 2018 Aside from the language the rabbits use among themselves, there is another language in the book, a lingua franca of the hedgerow that Hazel uses to talk to other animals (despite his peers’ suspicion of such a practice). Peter Rock, New York Times, "On the Unsettling Allure of ‘Watership Down’," 15 May 2018 Even better, Goldstein embraces the lingua franca of the lab, and the reader learns a thing or three about epigenetics along the way. Susan Kaplan Carlton,, "Meredith Goldstein is growing love in a lab," 22 June 2018 Just like sustainability has become the lingua franca in design, so too should diversity and inclusion. Diana Budds, Curbed, "How architecture can rebuild itself post #MeToo," 21 May 2018 And with no modernist orthodoxy dominating, a Bernsteinesque eclecticism is today’s musical lingua franca. Allan Kozinn, WSJ, "‘Bernstein: Complete Works’ Review: Lenny at 100," 14 May 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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lingua franca

lingua geral



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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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