ver·​nac·​u·​lar | \ vər-ˈna-kyə-lər How to pronounce vernacular (audio) , və- \

Definition of vernacular

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : using a language or dialect native to a region or country rather than a literary, cultured, or foreign language
b : of, relating to, or being a nonstandard language or dialect of a place, region, or country
c : of, relating to, or being the normal spoken form of a language
2 : applied to a plant or animal in the common native speech as distinguished from the Latin nomenclature of scientific classification the vernacular name
3 : of, relating to, or characteristic of a period, place, or group especially : of, relating to, or being the common building style of a period or place vernacular architecture



Definition of vernacular (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a vernacular language, expression, or mode of expression : an expression or mode of expression that occurs in ordinary speech rather than formal writing
2 : the mode of expression of a group or class
3 : a common name of a plant or animal as distinguished from the Latin nomenclature of scientific classification : a vernacular name of a plant or animal

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from vernacular


vernacularly adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for vernacular

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of vernacular in a Sentence

Adjective While there are American operas galore, some of which are quite good indeed, there is no vernacular opera tradition in America—instead, we have musical comedy—and now that supertitles have become standard equipment at major American opera houses, the chances that those houses will start regularly performing foreign-language operas in English translation have dropped from slim to none. — Terry Teachout, New York Times Book Review, 9 Nov. 1997 Native crafts, the use of local materials, and vernacular buildings were considered integral to each country's heritage, and their preservation and revival became part of the movement to forge a strong national identity. — Wendy Kaplan, Antiques, October 1995 For the proliferation of rich vernacular literatures in the twelfth century secured the place of the vulgar tongues in European society, and this entrenchment of the vernacular tongues made the European peoples more conscious of being separated from each other; decreased the cosmopolitan attitudes of the European nobility; and encouraged xenophobia, which became common in the thirteenth century. — Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, 1993 Hurricanes, fires and economic development unfortunately have caused many examples of both vernacular and more classical architecture to disappear over the years. — Suzanne Stephens, Architectural Digest, 1 Aug. 1990 the vernacular architecture of the region writes essays in a very easy-to-read, vernacular style Noun But ask baseball people about [Michael] Young, and they'll admiringly tell you that he is a "grinder," vernacular for a player who works his butt off. — Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated, 8 May 2006 … the sources for [Cole] Porter's chromaticism and syncopation are the vernacular of black music in America. — Stephen Brown, Times Literary Supplement, 21 Jan. 2005 For Lu Xun helped revolutionize Chinese writing, tugging the written language toward the vernacular so that it was easier to learn, and he even endorsed the heresy of abandoning Chinese characters for the Roman alphabet so that literacy could spread more easily. — Amy Hempel, New York Times Book Review, 19 Aug. 1990 New Mexico is not the easiest region in the country for an architect to establish a practice in. It is not that the area is indifferent to architecture—it is more that the traditional south-western architectural vernacular is so awe-inspiring that it tends to overwhelm most efforts to create a credible personal voice. — Paul Goldberger, Architectural Digest, October 1986 What was required was a vagrant and a visionary, a man of mystic recklessness. The man who dared point the way would have to use the vernacular, and not speak but shriek. Paracelsus (1493–1541) was suspect in his day, and never lost his reputation as a charlatan. — Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1983 He spoke in the vernacular of an urban teenager. phrases that occur in the common vernacular
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Camboulay, another vernacular expression of the French patois, from cannes brulees, refers to the practice of carrying torches of burning cane stalks during the riot. M Nourbese Philip, Harper's BAZAAR, "Pay De Devil: On Celebrating Jouvay," 16 Feb. 2021 Later, the vernacular ritual merged with the Feast of St. Lucy and became a festival of light. Karin Altenberg, WSJ, "‘Wintering’ Review: Rest, Retreat and Renewal," 30 Dec. 2020 The vernacular style of the house — wooden logs chinked with plaster and covered in clapboard — allows historians to date its construction to the 1750s. John Kelly, Washington Post, "These two homes were once among the oldest in D.C. They’re in Virginia now.," 21 Nov. 2020 The poster is exactly that, a sound bite, and vernacular to the core. New York Times, "The 25 Most Influential Works of American Protest Art Since World War II," 15 Oct. 2020 Newlyweds Oliver and Matilda Poyntz built the two-story house around 1884 as an L-plan frame vernacular house; apparently the Queen Anne gussying up came a little later. Joy Wallace Dickinson,, "‘Archtober’ opens new window to area’s diverse architecture," 11 Oct. 2020 Batak shows how vernacular architectures that were previously dismissed (or fetishized) as archaic or exotic bear urgent lessons. Darran Anderson, The Atlantic, "Why Every City Feels the Same Now," 24 Aug. 2020 Butler’s posts were written to sound like a Hong Konger — in vernacular Cantonese with the traditional Chinese characters widely used in Hong Kong. Jeff Kao, ProPublica, "How China Built a Twitter Propaganda Machine Then Let It Loose on Coronavirus," 29 Mar. 2020 Seaweed is the vernacular word for the largest kinds of algae, known as macroalgae. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Seaweed: The New Ethanol?," 16 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun His warning, the tree-climbing vernacular for plummeting deadfall, fills the forest moments before a branch whooshes passed, inches from my head. Thayer Walker, Scientific American, "Are Giant Sequoia Trees Succumbing to Drought?," 29 Dec. 2016 Its story lines and even its vernacular have become a sort of pop-culture lingua franca. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, "Lorraine Bracco Bought an Italian Villa, but She Can’t Escape “The Sopranos”," 11 Dec. 2020 Was the house designed to evoke any particular vernacular? Wendy Goodman, Curbed, "A Box Truck That Carries Our Dreams of Home," 25 Jan. 2021 Other words and phrases quickly joined it in the vernacular, a sign of how much the pandemic was altering life here and around the globe, affecting everyone. San Diego Union-Tribune, "With 2020 hindsight, there was nothing perfect about this year," 26 Dec. 2020 In the vernacular of vaccinology, vaccines that trigger a range of transient side effects in a lot of recipients are known as reactogenic. Helen Branswell, STAT, "A side-by-side comparison of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines," 19 Dec. 2020 Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard’s name, and that of a former United States president, found its way into the vernacular of the Las Vegas Raiders offense. oregonlive, "‘Richard Nixon. Damian Lillard.’: Trail Blazers star hears his name as Raiders quarterback calls audible," 18 Dec. 2020 New York City’s Barry Farber, who reportedly spoke 20 languages, was also fluent in the vernacular of the disaffected urban intellectuals who left the Democratic Party. Tevi Troy, Washington Examiner, "Conservatives we lost in 2020," 17 Dec. 2020 And that was before the pandemic hit, triggering mass job insecurity, an unrelenting stream of stressful headlines, millions of parents who became full-time teachers overnight, and reason to add Zoom fatigue to our vernacular. Macaela Mackenzie, Glamour, "Your ‘New Normal’ Burnout Is Real," 16 Dec. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of vernacular


1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1661, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vernacular


Latin vernāculus "belonging to the household, domestic, native" (from verna "slave born in the household"—of uncertain origin— + -āculus, perhaps originally diminutive suffix, though derivation is unclear) + -ar


noun derivative of vernacular entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about vernacular

Time Traveler for vernacular

Time Traveler

The first known use of vernacular was in 1601

See more words from the same year

Statistics for vernacular

Last Updated

1 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vernacular.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for vernacular



English Language Learners Definition of vernacular

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, or using the language of ordinary speech rather than formal writing
: of or relating to the common style of a particular time, place, or group



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

: the language of ordinary speech rather than formal writing

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on vernacular

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


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!