lingua franca

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

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

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 This comes as Brexit approaches, potentially creating a vacuum in the European Union’s lingua franca that others hope to fill. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, "Europe's top song contest gets a little more European-sounding," 11 May 2018 JavaScript remains the most widely used programming language among professional developers, making that six years at the top for the lingua franca of Web development. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Developers love trendy new languages but earn more with functional programming," 13 Mar. 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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The first known use of lingua franca was in 1619

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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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