mother tongue


Definition of mother tongue

1 : one's native language
2 : a language from which another language derives

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Synonyms for mother tongue


language, lingo, speech, tongue, vocabulary

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Examples of mother tongue in a Sentence

although the anthropologist could speak the local language fairly well, she was always glad to find someone who shared her mother tongue

Recent Examples on the Web

Growing up on the western frontier of the Tang empire, Li Po spoke a Turkish dialect as his mother tongue. Yunte Huang, WSJ, "‘The Banished Immortal’ Review: ‘Heaven Begot a Talent Like Me’," 11 Jan. 2019 And as added bonus, native English speakers will be able to speak in their mother tongue. Teen Vogue, "10 Best Places To Study Abroad: Our Favorite Study-Abroad Cities," 25 Mar. 2019 Spain’s Constitution, for example, makes Castilian Spanish the official national language, and requires all citizens to know it, even if their mother tongue is Basque or Catalan. Eugene Kontorovich, WSJ, "Get Over It—Israel Is the Jewish State," 19 July 2018 With tensions between Russia and the West rising, Narva might also serve as a reminder to the rest of the EU that speaking Russian as a mother tongue and supporting Mr Putin are not necessarily the same thing. The Economist, "Estonia gets creative about integrating local Russian-speakers," 10 May 2018 Bogre Udell sets up his camera and the siblings begin to banter in their inscrutable Germanic mother tongue. National Geographic, "The Race to Save the World's Disappearing Languages," 16 Apr. 2018 De Klerk's foundation is lobbying the government to build bridges with South Africa's white minority, including through greater provision for mother tongue education, in the hope of lowering barriers and fostering integration. Kieron Monks, CNN, "De Klerk: 'South Africa is in good hands now'," 7 May 2018 Political analysts fear that Sinhalese extremists are trying to transfer lingering hostility against Tamils onto Muslims (most of whom speak Tamil as their mother tongue). The Economist, "Emerging emergencyAnti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka signal a new social fissure," 8 Mar. 2018 Under the new legislation, students would only be able to learn in their mother tongue in subjects related to culture and history. Tyler Dikun, Fox News, "Latvian legislation seeks to diminish ethnic Russians' cultural impact," 8 Mar. 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for mother tongue

Last Updated

4 May 2019

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Time Traveler for mother tongue

The first known use of mother tongue was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for mother tongue

mother tongue


English Language Learners Definition of mother tongue

: the language that a person learns to speak first

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More from Merriam-Webster on mother tongue

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mother tongue

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mother tongue

Spanish Central: Translation of mother tongue

Comments on mother tongue

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behavior toward others

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