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


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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 Some Indigenous groups, especially those with larger populations, such as the Guarani Mbya, have managed to maintain their mother tongue. Jill Langlois, National Geographic, "Losing elders to COVID-19 endangers Indigenous languages," 13 Nov. 2020 The Celts’ speech is of Indo-European origin (as are 445 of the world’s languages), but not much is known about the origins of the Iberians’ mother tongue. National Geographic, "This 2,400-year-old statue reveals insights into ancient Spain," 24 Nov. 2020 Both Pele and Kekoa were close to their great-grandmothers—women born in the early 1900s, who spoke some Hawaiian, even though they were raised to think of their mother tongue as inferior to English. Daniella Zalcman, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Inspiring Quest to Revive the Hawaiian Language," 17 Nov. 2020 The languages include not only German and Italian but also Ladin, the mother tongue for more than 20,000 people and said to be a mash-up of Latin and mountain Celtic. Stanley Stewart, Condé Nast Traveler, "Slowing Down in the Dolomites," 12 Nov. 2020 The term refers to people whose mother tongue is Spanish or whose roots trace to a Spanish-speaking population. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, "Florida and the Cuban Vote," 27 Sep. 2020 On Weibo, China's version of Twitter, some ethnic Han users have spoken out in sympathy of Inner Mongolia's plight to protect its mother tongue. Nectar Gan, CNN, "How China's new language policy sparked rare backlash in Inner Mongolia," 5 Sep. 2020 In my mother tongue, Marathi, salad is called koshimbir. Annada D. Rathi, Washington Post, "Tadka — a spice-infused oil or ghee — can take any salad from ho-hum to flavorful," 9 Sep. 2020 Angba, the herdsman in Xilin Gol, said by the first grade, many children haven't even properly learned their mother tongue yet, and adding another language would be a big burden. Nectar Gan, CNN, "How China's new language policy sparked rare backlash in Inner Mongolia," 5 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for mother tongue

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

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Last Updated

11 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mother tongue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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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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