sign language


Definition of sign language

1 : a formal language employing a system of hand gestures for communication (as by the deaf)
2 : an unsystematic method of communicating chiefly by manual gestures used by people speaking different languages

Examples of sign language in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Verge Science visited Lorne at his lab in Rochester, New York, and got a firsthand look at some of the new science sign language in circulation. William Poor, The Verge, "How deaf researchers are reinventing science communication," 11 Dec. 2018 She was taught sign language by Dr. Francine Patterson starting in 1974, The Associated Press reported. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Koko the gorilla who could sign, owned kitten, dies," 21 June 2018 These were the questions that inspired software developer Abhishek Singh to create a mod that lets Amazon’s Alexa assistant understand some simple sign language commands. James Vincent, The Verge, "This Amazon Echo mod lets Alexa understand sign language," 24 July 2018 Koko, who was 46, developed a sign language vocabulary of more than 170 words by age 4 and more than 2,000 at the time of her passing. Philip Potempa, Post-Tribune, "Mr. Rogers still a trusted name and neighbor to Northwest Indiana public TV," 27 June 2018 The child, who is deaf, doesn’t seem to be able to communicate and did not respond to a sign language interpreter, the Los Angeles Police Department said. City News Service,, "LAPD seeks public's help to identify boy found alone at Union Station," 5 July 2018 Now a professor in the Primate Behavior and Ecology Program at Central Washington University, Jensvold has worked with chimpanzees who communicate with sign language since 1986. Deborah Netburn,, "What it's like to be interviewed for a job by Koko the gorilla: 'She had a lot to say'," 22 June 2018 Koko was taught sign language from an early age as a scientific test subject and eventually learned more than 1,000 words, a vocabulary similar to that of a human toddler., "Koko the Gorilla Used Smarts, Empathy to Help Change Views," 21 June 2018 Her sign language interpreters, Celeste Moresco and Jody Schatz, both of Highland Park, worked diligently to make sure Rinaldi’s participation was not hindered in any way, just a little different. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "Hearing impairment does not deter Lake County Citizen Police Academy graduate," 20 May 2018

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

1824, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near sign language

sign in

sign into law


sign language



sign manual

Statistics for sign language

Last Updated

5 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sign language

The first known use of sign language was in 1824

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More Definitions for sign language

sign language


English Language Learners Definition of sign language

: a system of hand movements used for communication especially by people who are deaf

sign language


Kids Definition of sign language

: a system of hand movements used for communication (as by people who are deaf)

sign language


Medical Definition of sign language

: a formal language employing a system of hand gestures for communication (as by the deaf) — compare finger spelling

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More from Merriam-Webster on sign language

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sign language

Spanish Central: Translation of sign language

Nglish: Translation of sign language for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about sign language

Comments on sign language

What made you want to look up sign language? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a servile follower or underling

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