verb \ ˈspēk \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of speak

spoke play \ˈspōk\; spoken play \ˈspō-kən\; speaking
1 a : to utter words or articulate sounds with the ordinary voice : talk
b (1) : to express thoughts, opinions, or feelings orally
(2) : to extend a greeting
(3) : to be friendly enough to engage in conversation
  • still were not speaking after the dispute
c (1) : to express oneself before a group
(2) : to address one's remarks
  • speak to the issue
2 a : to make a written statement
  • his diaries … spoke … of his entrancement with death
  • —Sy Kahn
b : to use such an expression often used in the phrase so to speak
  • was at the enemy's gates, so to speak
  • —C. S. Forester
c : to serve as spokesperson
3 a : to express feelings by other than verbal means
  • actions speak louder than words
b : signal
c : to be interesting or attractive : appeal
  • great music … speaks directly to the emotions
  • —A. N. Whitehead
4 : to make a request or claim used with for usually used in passive constructions
  • the seat was already spoken for
5 : to make a characteristic or natural sound
  • all at once the thunder spoke
  • —George Meredith
6 a : testify
b : to be indicative or suggestive
  • his gold … spoke of riches in the land
  • —Julian Dana
1 a (1) : to utter with the speaking voice : pronounce
(2) : to give a recitation of : declaim
b : to express orally : declare
  • free to speak their minds
c : address, accost; especially : hail
2 : to make known in writing : state
3 : to use or be able to use in speaking
  • speaks Spanish
4 : to indicate by other than verbal means
5 archaic : describe, depict


play \ˈspē-kə-bəl\ adjective
to speak of
: worthy of mention or notice usually used in negative constructions
  • no progress to speak of

Examples of speak in a Sentence

  1. Have you two spoken since yesterday?

  2. She and I spoke this morning.

  3. He never speaks at the meetings.

  4. Without speaking, she walked from the room.

  5. They were speaking in Japanese.

  6. When I said you were my best friend, I was speaking sincerely.

  7. She must be speaking the truth.

  8. Not a word was spoken between them the whole time.

  9. He has laryngitis and can't speak.

  10. She speaks with a Southern accent.

Recent Examples of speak from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'speak.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of speak

Middle English speken, from Old English sprecan, specan; akin to Old High German sprehhan to speak, Greek spharageisthai to crackle


noun combining form \ ˌspēk \

Definition of -speak

used to form especially nonce words denoting a particular kind of jargon
  • Californiaspeak

Origin and Etymology of -speak


SPEAK Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of speak for English Language Learners

  • : to say words in order to express your thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc., to someone : to talk to someone

  • : to talk about a particular subject or person

  • : to say words to express yourself in a particular way


Definition of -speak for English Language Learners

  • —used to form words that refer to the special languages or words used for particular activities or by particular groups

SPEAK Defined for Kids


verb \ ˈspēk \

Definition of speak for Students

spoke \ˈspōk\; spoken \ˈspō-kən\; speaking
1 : to utter words : talk
  • He speaks too fast.
2 : to utter in words
  • Does he speak the truth?
3 : to mention in speech or writing
  • She spoke of being ill.
4 : to use or be able to use in talking
  • Can you speak Spanish?
speak out
: to express an opinion openly
speak up
1 : to speak loudly and clearly
2 : to express an opinion openly

Synonym Discussion of speak

speak, talk, and converse mean to express in words. speak is used of anything said, whether it is understood or not and whether it is heard or not.
    • We didn't know what language they were speaking.
talk is used when there is a listener who understands what is said and often when both people do some speaking.
    • We talked about school.
converse is used for the exchange of thoughts and opinions.
    • The scientists conversed about traveling in space.

Seen and Heard

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