sig·​ni·​fi·​er | \ˈsig-nə-ˌfī(-ə)r \

Definition of signifier 

1 : one that signifies

2 : a symbol, sound, or image (such as a word) that represents an underlying concept or meaning — compare signified

Examples of signifier in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Each character has a clear sartorial signifier: Betty Cooper with her sweaters and Peter Pan collars, Archie Andrews with his letterman jacket, Jughead Jones with his beanie, Veronica Lodge with her pearls... Ana Colón, Glamour, "How to Make Your Own," 5 Oct. 2018 Fetish signifiers seem to be more prevalent than ever, both in fashion and in popular culture at large. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Ladyfag and Opening Ceremony Release an Exclusive Capsule Collection of Hanky Code Bandanas and T-Shirts for Pride Month," 14 June 2018 Without signifiers to detect a guy's Kinsey Scale rank, we're left to our own devices. Chris Azzopardi, GQ, "Is He Gay, or Just Networking?," 14 May 2018 Persky's likely replacement is prosecutor Cindy Hendrickson, perhaps a fitting signifier in the #MeToo era. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Women in These 8 States Made Huge Strides in Tuesday's Primary Elections," 6 June 2018 In each instance, Ms. Goldberg challenges and expands our ideas of blackness by conjuring up an audible signifier typically identified with whiteness. Aisha Harris, New York Times, "When Black Performers Use Their ‘White Voice’," 10 July 2018 And at a certain point, dismissing your critics on the basis of signifiers such as race and gender starts to read as defensiveness about the very existence of criticism, specifically negative criticism, in the first place. Justin Chang,, "We need more diversity in film criticism, but 'Who is this movie for?' is the wrong question to ask," 20 June 2018 The puppets in Turkey, Nepal and Indonesia were brightly colored, and hues were symbolic signifiers. Allison Keyes, Smithsonian, "Illuminating the Shadowy Art of Armenian Puppet Theater," 13 July 2018 It has been used to dehumanize and now it's sold as a signifier of cool. Stereo Williams, Billboard, "Kendrick Lamar, Black Language and What White Fans Don't Get About the 'N-Word'," 24 May 2018

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

1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for signifier

Last Updated

16 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for signifier

The first known use of signifier was in 1532

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More from Merriam-Webster on signifier

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with signifier

Comments on signifier

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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