sign language

noun

Definition of sign language

1 : any of various formal languages employing a system of hand gestures and their placement relative to the upper body, facial expressions, body postures, and finger spelling especially for communication by and with deaf people But true sign languages are in fact complete in themselves: their syntax, grammar, and semantics are complete, but they have a different character from that of any spoken or written language.— Oliver Sacks Sign language relies mainly on the signer's hand, but facial expressions and body movements are also important.— Mark Prigg
2 : an unsystematic method of communicating chiefly by manual gestures (as by people speaking different languages) I decided to cadge a lift from a Lebanese who only spoke Arabic, so we had to converse in sign language.— Robert Fox

Examples of sign language in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Paige Powell’s first job was teaching chimpanzees sign language at what is now the Oregon Zoo. Lane Florsheim, WSJ, "Photos: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and More in New Glimpse of ’80s New York," 16 Apr. 2019 In 2016, the mascot first broke his silence through sign language in celebration of National American Sign Language Day. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "Creepy Burger King mascot speaks his first word thanks to Budweiser. Asks "Whassup!?"," 27 June 2018 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, latimes.com, "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, latimes.com, "What it's like to be interviewed for a job by Koko the gorilla: 'She had a lot to say'," 22 June 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

signist

sign language

signless

signman

sign manual

Statistics for sign language

Last Updated

14 May 2019

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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

noun

English Language Learners Definition of sign language

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

sign language

noun

Kids Definition of sign language

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

sign language

noun

Medical Definition of sign language

: any of various formal languages employing a system of hand gestures and their placement relative to the upper body, facial expressions, body postures, and finger spelling especially for communication by and with deaf people

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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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about sign language

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