\ ˈtəŋ \

Definition of tongue 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a fleshy movable muscular process of the floor of the mouths of most vertebrates that bears sensory end organs and small glands and functions especially in taking and swallowing food and in humans as a speech organ

b : a part of various invertebrate animals that is analogous to the tongue

2 : the flesh of a tongue (as of the ox or sheep) used as food

3a : language especially : a spoken language

b : manner or quality of utterance with respect to tone or sound, the sense of what is expressed, or the intention of the speaker she has a clever tongue a sharp tongue

c : ecstatic, typically unintelligible utterance occurring especially in a moment of religious excitation usually plural It would be like the miracle described in the Acts of the Apostles, demonstrated with healing, speaking in tongues and other signs and wonders. —Dan Wakefield… where they can sing and shriek and talk in tongues and testify and have a part. —Jane Kramer

d : the cry of or as if of a hound pursuing or in sight of game used especially in the phrase to give tongue

4 : the power of communication through speech

5 : a tapering flame tongues of fire

6 : something resembling an animal's tongue in being elongated and fastened at one end only: such as

a : the flap under the lacing or buckles of a shoe at the throat of the vamp

b : a movable pin in a buckle

c : a metal ball suspended inside a bell so as to strike against the sides as the bell is swung

d : the pole (see pole entry 1 sense 1b) of a vehicle (such as a wagon)

7a : the rib on one edge of a board that fits into a corresponding groove in an edge of another board to make a flush joint

b : feather sense 4

8 : a long narrow strip of land projecting into a body of water


tongued; tonguing\ˈtəŋ-iŋ \

Definition of tongue (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to articulate (notes on a wind instrument) by successively interrupting the stream of wind with the action of the tongue

2 : to touch or lick with or as if with the tongue

3a : to cut a tongue on tongue a board

b : to join (parts, such as boards) by means of a tongue and groove tongue flooring together

4 archaic : scold

intransitive verb

1 : to articulate notes on a wind instrument by successively interrupting the stream of wind with the action of the tongue

2 : to project in a tongue


geographical name
\ ˈtəŋ \

Definition of Tongue (Entry 3 of 3)

river 246 miles (396 kilometers) long in northern Wyoming and southern Montana flowing north into the Yellowstone River

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Other words from tongue


tonguelike \-ˌlīk \ adjective

Examples of tongue in a Sentence


The cow ran its tongue over its lips. The taste of the spice was still on her tongue. The little girl stuck her tongue out at me. He spoke in a foreign tongue. English is my native tongue. They speak the same tongue. His sharp tongue is going to get him into trouble someday.


learning how to tongue notes on the clarinet
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And finally, even these Debbie Downers are smart enough to bite their tongues when Adrian Beltre's bona fides are reported. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Rangers Reaction: Enjoy the enjoyable even if your team stinks," 4 July 2018 In the middle was Williams, the colonist who best understood the Narragansetts and, indeed, spoke their tongue and appreciated their culture. Roger Lowenstein, WSJ, "‘God, War, and Providence’ Review: When Conquest Was Puritanical," 13 June 2018 Bite your tongue one minute and prevent a lifetime of burden. The Christian Science Monitor, "4 delightful new books for middle-grade readers," 7 June 2018 Even after generations in Texas, many residents in those towns worked, farmed and continued to speak their native tongue amongst themselves. Roy Bragg, San Antonio Express-News, "German (and Czech) towns are baseball hotbeds," 3 June 2018 Doing so has often required ministers to bite their tongues. The Economist, "Britain is increasingly willing to cosy up to nasty regimes," 17 May 2018 Ledecky, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, hit her fist in the water and stuck out her tongue after touching the wall and seeing the scoreboard. David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "Katie Ledecky opens Indy meet with world record in 1,500 freestyle," 16 May 2018 This year, a staffer accused state Senator Jeff Klein of forcing his tongue into her mouth in 2015. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "New York Is the Most Politically Toxic Place in America," 9 May 2018 Perez bit his tongue until Anderson crossed home plate. Maria Torres, kansascity, "Benches clear, Eric Skoglund dazzles in Royals' doubleheader win over White Sox | The Kansas City Star," 28 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the painted world, Beaverbrook is stricter and Maugham more acid-tongued than ever. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "Children’s Books: Meeting the People in the Paintings," 5 July 2018 Along with the Burmese Python, Andersen brought an armadillo, a chinchilla, a leopard tortoise and an Australian blue-tongued skink. Lisa Dejong,, "Outback Ray's Amazing Animal Show (photos)," 5 Mar. 2018 Broussard is just one of Burke’s finely nuanced characters; others include a silver-tongued, wealthy, ostensibly populist businessman who is snugly in bed with white nationalists. Adam Woog, The Seattle Times, "Crime fiction: James Lee Burke’s latest brings back deputy ‘Robicheaux’," 14 Jan. 2018 If your colleagues or clients grow irate over unanswered emails, tell them to submit a complaint to Slinky, the blue-tongued skink. Andrea Sachs, The Seattle Times, "Petting zoos at the office are the latest perk for stressed-out employees," 25 Dec. 2017 Sullivan elicits the suave personality of the silver-tongued attorney, but also imbues him with a tough guy persona. Theodore P. Mahne,, "Sharp dances drive JPAS' arresting production of 'Chicago'," 9 Oct. 2017

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 4

History and Etymology for tongue


Middle English tunge, from Old English; akin to Old High German zunga tongue, Latin lingua

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Statistics for tongue

Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tongue

The first known use of tongue was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for tongue



English Language Learners Definition of tongue

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the soft, movable part in the mouth that is used for tasting and eating food and in human beings for speaking

: the tongue of an animal (such as an ox or sheep) that is eaten as food

: a particular way or quality of speaking



English Language Learners Definition of tongue (Entry 2 of 2)

: to produce separate notes when you are blowing air through a musical instrument (such as a trumpet) by using your tongue to briefly stop the flow of air

: to touch or lick something with your tongue


\ ˈtəŋ \

Kids Definition of tongue

1 : a fleshy movable part of the mouth used in tasting, in taking and swallowing food, and by human beings in speaking

2 : a particular way or quality of speaking Keep a polite tongue.

3 : language sense 1 Many tongues are spoken in a big city.

4 : something that is long and fastened at one end a tongue of land the tongue of a shoe


\ ˈtəŋ \

Medical Definition of tongue 

: a process of the floor of the mouth that is attached basally to the hyoid bone, that consists essentially of a mass of extrinsic muscle attaching its base to other parts, intrinsic muscle by which parts of the structure move in relation to each other, and an epithelial covering rich in sensory end organs and small glands, and that functions especially in taking and swallowing food and as a speech organ

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Comments on tongue

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


the setting in which something occurs

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