lingua franca

noun lin·gua fran·ca \ ˈliŋ-gwə-ˈfraŋ-kə \

Definition of lingua franca

plural lingua francas or linguae francae play \ˈliŋ-gwē-ˈfraŋ-(ˌ)kē\
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

Examples of lingua franca in a Sentence

  1. English is used as a lingua franca among many airline pilots.

Recent Examples of lingua franca from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of lingua franca

Italian, literally, Frankish language

Other Language Terms


LINGUA FRANCA Defined for English Language Learners

lingua franca

noun

Definition of lingua franca for English Language Learners

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


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