\ 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 Each morning, Ann woke up at 4 am and stuck a thermometer beneath her tongue. Caitlin Harrington, Wired, "There's No Such Thing as Family Secrets in the Age of 23andMe," 30 July 2020 Rivera was best known for her role as Santana Lopez, the cheerleader with a voice like an angel and a tongue that could cut you in two. Washington Post, "‘Glee’ was an upbeat teen musical. Tragedy is taking over its legacy.," 10 July 2020 Loss of smell also impacts taste, but the virus may also have a direct effect on taste: The nference analysis found high levels of the ACE2 gene in tongue cells called keratinocytes, which contribute to the sense of taste. Sharon Begley, STAT, "Watch: From nose to toe, the Covid-19 virus attacks like no other ‘respiratory’ infection," 26 June 2020 In the tighter confines of Japanese haiku, and the isolation of his Paris apartment, Wright found a more surgical way to register how moments might speak with a cryptic tongue. Christopher Benfey, The New York Review of Books, "Richard Wright, Masaoka Shiki, and the Haiku of Confinement," 25 June 2020 Nominate a master of ceremonies to introduce the performers who take turns playing music, telling jokes, doing tongue twisters, performing magic tricks, or showing off other special talents. Laura Goertzel, National Geographic, "How to help your kid be the virtual host with the most," 22 June 2020 Other features, like a vertical pull tab that makes the shoes easy to slip on and off, a padded tongue and collar, and a breathable textile lining, round out the finishing touches. Madeline Diamond, Travel + Leisure, "This Comfy Shoe Brand Just Released New Ultra-cushioned Running Shoes," 8 July 2020 The third ad points to a July 23, 1995, column in which Wright pens a tongue-in-cheek piece about his recent family vacation to Florida following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that year to uphold the Endangered Species Act. Paul Cobler, Dallas News, "Arlington congressman Ron Wright’s Democratic opponent blasts him for old columns," 30 June 2020 Durov responded by posting on Twitter a picture of a dog with its tongue out. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post, "How the founder of the Telegram messaging app stood up to the Kremlin — and won," 28 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

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tongue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 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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