\ ˈtəŋ How to pronounce tongue (audio) \

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


tongued; tonguing\ ˈtəŋ-​iŋ How to pronounce tonguing (audio) \; tongues

Definition of tongue (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive + intransitive

1 music : to articulate (notes on a wind instrument) by successively interrupting the stream of wind with the action of the tongue Playing [the bugle] and tonguing the note and making it come out exactly spot-on, that takes a technique and a skill.— Bethann Dixon
2 : to touch or lick (something) with the tongue cows tonguing the long grass
3 carpentry
a : 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 entry 1


geographical name
\ ˈtəŋ How to pronounce Tongue (audio) \

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 \ ˈtəŋ-​ˌlīk How to pronounce tonguelike (audio) \ adjective

Examples of tongue in a Sentence

Noun 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. Verb learning how to tongue notes on the clarinet
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This tongue-in-cheek tale about a very amateur effort to make a slasher flick is a hilarious ode to creativity, the can-do spirit and friendship. oregonlive, "Here are the 2020 Oregon Book Award winners," 23 June 2020 While perhaps better known for its tongue-in-cheek flavors, the statement is very much in line with Ben & Jerry’s history. Beth Kowitt, Fortune, "How Ben & Jerry’s activist history allows it to call out white supremacy and police brutality," 23 June 2020 Then, Alyss drank the water, making sure to keep it in her mouth for a few minutes and sloshing it under her tongue. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, "Why People Are Drinking Silver for COVID-19," 22 June 2020 For example Ryan Beekman lined a third-floor play area for the kids with tongue-in-groove Douglas fir. Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press, "Vintage Victorian in Chelsea was cut up, made into apartments. Now it's been restored.," 20 June 2020 Voters will have access to hand sanitizer and will be given a disposable stick that looks like a tongue depressor to mark their votes on the voting machine's touchscreen. Pat Beall And John Moritz, USA TODAY, "COVID endangers the volunteers who make your vote count," 19 June 2020 The tongue will turn the color of a strawberry, and the skin will often peel, starting from the fingertips and toes. Matt Schudel,, "Tomisaku Kawasaki, doctor who identified inflammatory disease in children, dies at 95," 15 June 2020 Rumours of Sprouse and Reinhart's split began when, upon being asked if the duo made a cute couple during a recent Instagram Live, Riverdale co-star Skeet Ulrich made a revealing slip of the tongue. Sarah Midkiff,, "Cole Sprouse Looks So Different After Rumoured Lili Reinhart Split," 26 May 2020 Alaric spoke Latin as well as his native Gothic tongue. Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic, "The Man Who Sacked Rome," 9 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Holy smokes, how much is your Rolling Stones tongue artwork worth? $150,000. Matt Wake |, al, "Is Bama’s mascot on this classic Aerosmith album cover?," 11 Feb. 2020 Set in Ohio and based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller of the same name, Little Fires Everywhere follows the story of the Richardson family, helmed by picture-perfect and silver-tongued matriarch Elena. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Hulu's "Little Fires Everywhere" Releases New Official Trailer," 20 Feb. 2020 Behind them, looks like Kevan Miller and his wife Haley seem to have gone as Gene and Ace from Kiss, tongues out and ready to rock and roll all night., "Judging the best costumes at the Bruins’ Halloween party - The Boston Globe," 31 Oct. 2019 Wale, meanwhile, plays the fiery, silver-tongued Orisha named Chango, an important link to Shadow’s unexplored past. Nick Romano,, "Danny Trejo joins American Gods season 3 with Julia Sweeney, rapper Wale," 21 Nov. 2019 But along came demure Linda, delicately crashing onto the presidential campaign press bus; then entered bulldozer Nina, with major scoops on Douglas Ginsberg and Anita Hill; and in came tart-tongued Cokie with her savvy Congressional reporting., "NEW YORK — Cokie Roberts, the pioneering broadcast journalist known to millions for her work with ABC News and NPR, died Tuesday in Washington. She was 75.," 18 Sep. 2019 In Semple’s depiction, Bernadette is more than just crabby and eloquently viper-tongued; she’s possessed by a sociopolitical bitterness, as well. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” Reviewed: Richard Linklater’s Narrow View of a Creator in Crisis," 26 Aug. 2019 The poison-tongued potty mouth crashed Stephen Colbert’s monologue Tuesday night and directed his brash brand of comedy at Colbert, late-night and, of course, President Trump. Libby Hill,, "Deadpool crashes Colbert and unleashes some top-notch, lowbrow Trump humor," 16 May 2018 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

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 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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Time Traveler for tongue

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for tongue

Last Updated

29 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tongue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for tongue


How to pronounce Tongue (audio)

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 How to pronounce tongue (audio) \

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 How to pronounce tongue (audio) \

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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