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


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

Definition of tongue (Entry 2 of 3)

1 transitive + intransitive, 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 transitive : to touch or lick (something) with the tongue cows tonguing the long grass
3 transitive, 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 transitive, 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 Tongue (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 But their flavors are brightly juicy without the tongue-flattening astringency of artificial sweetener. New York Times, 21 July 2021 Patients were told to cough three times and then swab their gums, tongue and other areas inside their mouths for at least 20 seconds. Los Angeles Times, 16 July 2021 Some symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pale skin and fingernails, headaches and glossitis or an inflamed tongue. Stefani Sassos, Ms, Rdn, Cso, Cdn, Nasm-cpt, Good Housekeeping, 14 July 2021 The queen, née Justin Johnson, tongue-popped her way into the nation's heart from her first appearance on RuPaul's Drag Race season five, then again on All Stars season two. Jihan Forbes, Allure, 12 July 2021 Innabi-Danial said that if night guards, behavioral intervention, jaw and tongue exercises and a diet consisting of softer foods do not help, then patients can consider having Botox injected in their jaw muscle. Dr. Jacinta Leyden And Dr. Stephanie Widmer, ABC News, 12 July 2021 When electromagnetic imaging was first invented, the discovery led to a wide variety of uses, from optimizing shoe size in retail stores to recording tongue and teeth movement to studying languages. Oliver Kharraz, Fortune, 6 July 2021 Her fat Fanta Man, with his wide mouth, snaky, wandering tongue, empty eye sockets, lewdly pliant fingers, and birthday party crown cap, is a kind of underground lord of the revels. Sanford Schwartz, The New York Review of Books, 6 July 2021 Denmark’s captain, Simon Kjaer, had a remarkably keen understanding of what was necessary in that moment, sprinted toward Eriksen, and placed him in a recovery position that prevented him from choking on own tongue. Clint Smith, The Atlantic, 2 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb An old lady lifts her skirts and orders a man to tongue her in the presence of an appreciative group that includes her own son; a kindly prostitute marks Tiller’s forehead with her menstrual blood. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, 8 Feb. 2021 Holy smokes, how much is your Rolling Stones tongue artwork worth? $150,000. Matt Wake |, al, 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, 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., 31 Oct. 2019 Wale, meanwhile, plays the fiery, silver-tongued Orisha named Chango, an important link to Shadow’s unexplored past. Nick Romano,, 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., 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, 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,, 16 May 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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Last Updated

24 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tongue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jul. 2021.

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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 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

More from Merriam-Webster on tongue

Nglish: Translation of tongue for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tongue for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about tongue


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