ver·​nac·​u·​lar | \vər-ˈna-kyə-lər, 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

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Other Words from vernacular


vernacularly adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for vernacular

Synonyms: Adjective

colloquial, conversational, informal, nonformal, nonliterary, unbookish, unliterary, vulgar

Antonyms: Adjective

bookish, formal, learned, literary

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Examples of vernacular in a Sentence


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


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Also on the docket: a collaborative show at Kopeikin Gallery, in which painter Kirsten Tradowsky painted works from gallerist Paul Kopeikin’s collection of vernacular photography. Carolina A. Miranda,, "Essential Arts: A wild procession, a female 'Tempest' and music's new sounds of protest," 30 June 2018 Designed by Anna-Marie Chin Architects, the 1,291-square-foot off-grid home, known as Tom’s House, combines the features of vernacular cabin architecture with contemporary twists, almost literally. Lauren Ro, Curbed, "Rent this black-clad off-grid cabin for your next holiday," 14 June 2018 The prospect of bulldozing vernacular architecture, obliterating streets, and displacing communities were rightly derided as philistine. Darran Anderson, The Atlantic, "The Cities That Never Existed," 17 June 2018 Other obsessions are embodied by a visionary 1972 image by Purvis Young (1943-2010), a vernacular icon, with rows of figures and angels against a lush red ground, and two enormous white horses, symbols, for Young, of power and freedom. Karen Wilkin, WSJ, "‘History Refused to Die’ Review: A Visual Equivalent of Jazz," 30 May 2018 His studio is low-slung, gray, anonymous: an exemplar of the banal, vernacular L.A. that Ruscha has captured in so many paintings and photographs. Mark Rozzo, Vanities, "Ed Ruscha Still Has Plenty More to Say About America," 30 May 2018 Both Olympics studiously avoided national colors in favor of vernacular ones, and Josten argues, emphasized the ephemeral. Alexandra Lange, Curbed, "Lessons from LA’s 1984 Summer Olympics," 17 May 2018 The intellect and genius is there, even underneath prose that’s conversational without being at all vernacular or simple. Jill Golden, Time, "Octavia Butler 101: Two Scholars on the Sci-Fi Genius Who Inspired Janelle Monáe," 4 Apr. 2018 Mr Kinnear’s goal is to make the iambic pentameter seem as vernacular as artificial. The Economist, "The making of a Shakespearean actor," 15 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Nothing fancy or luxury, just styles so mainstream as to be almost vernacular. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "Into the Wild With Kanye West," 25 June 2018 The artist is inspired by vernacular painting, but with a dark twist — imagine brightly hued canvases that feature beings both monstrous and angelic. Carolina A. Miranda,, "Datebook: Portraits of peers, collages inspired by the African diaspora and art for feline lovers," 14 June 2018 Europe is full of rivers and river boats of vernacular design. Dan Neil, WSJ, "The Low-Cost Way to Live Abroad: Buy a Boat," 30 Mar. 2018 Bonfire also illustrated Wolfe’s keen ear for the vernacular, with different characters voicing the now-famous New York City refrain, fuhgedaboudit. Ben Zimmer, The Atlantic, "The Lexicon of Tom Wolfe," 15 May 2018 In expanding the architecture, we were inspired by the traditional Cycladic design vernacular, from the whitewashed walls to the raw-stone exterior that blends into the landscape. Zander Abranowicz, ELLE Decor, "A Modern Take on Greek Island Living in Serifos," 2 July 2018 But the score is rich at every turn, blending the rigor of symphonic music with Broadway idioms and vernacular of Latin American style and jazz. Joshua Barone, New York Times, "The Trouble With Bernstein’s Broadway in the Concert Hall," 13 July 2018 Who’s gonna fill their shoes, to borrow some country-music vernacular? Mike Hembree, USA TODAY, "Is NASCAR's young crop of drivers feeling pressure to perform, replace departed stars?," 6 July 2018 More tangibly, Bulgari has often recycled elements of the beloved city's architectural vernacular. Alice B-b, A-LIST, "No Place Like Rome," 4 July 2018

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.

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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

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The first known use of vernacular was in 1601

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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

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