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

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Other Words from vernacular


vernacularly adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for vernacular

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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 And there was also a pertinent aesthetic bias: The reigning modernist idiom was streamlined and clean, inhospitable to vernacular grit. Joseph Horowitz, WSJ, "A Symphony to Link Africa and America," 7 Feb. 2020 Indeed, the spark for nationalist movements has often been historians, writers, lexicographers, and folklorists who celebrated and promoted vernacular languages and excavated a glorious literary past. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Yes, the English Language Is Important," 10 Nov. 2019 The Housing Lark celebrates West Indian vernacular cultures in all their multiple manifestations, from language to food, music, religion, nicknames, history, and ultimately to vernacular forms of knowledge. Dohra Ahmad, The New York Review of Books, "A Lark in West Indian London," 10 Jan. 2020 Still the commitment to a vernacular aesthetic rather than to factual information. Luke Mogelson, The New Yorker, "“Relentless Absurdity”: An Army Photographer’s Censored Images," 19 Jan. 2020 Even beyond the innovative choice of omniscient vernacular narrator, this is a novel in love with West Indian Vernacular English (WIVE). Dohra Ahmad, The New York Review of Books, "A Lark in West Indian London," 10 Jan. 2020 Selvon’s novels are extremely rare in their choice to bestow narrative authority—in other words, objective knowledge—on a vernacular narrator. Dohra Ahmad, The New York Review of Books, "A Lark in West Indian London," 10 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Hi-touch: A perk for fans who are willing to shell out extra money, the hi-touch is K-pop vernacular for high five. Jae-ha Kim, Allure, "How to Speak K-Pop Like a True Fan," 13 Apr. 2020 The fact that an obscure finance metric entered the vernacular this summer is testament to America’s economic jitters — and that is where Mr. Trump comes in. Matt Phillips, New York Times, "A Year of Stock Market Fury, Signifying Nearly Nothing," 17 Aug. 2019 Social grace is being overtaken by social isolation, an important new phrase in the international vernacular, in the age of novel coronavirus. Aaron Huey, National Geographic, "Will a deadly virus stop us from handshakes?," 16 Mar. 2020 Its subtle curves also echo the Jiangnan-style eaves of the area’s ancient vernacular. Sam Lubell, Los Angeles Times, "11 buildings by Ma Yansong, the architect behind George Lucas’ L.A. museum," 2 Apr. 2020 Hurston’s use of vernacular had detractors even in her day. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: Through the Spyglass of Anthropology," 17 Jan. 2020 Imagine the opinions of Jordan B. Peterson, as expressed by Ayn Rand’s Superman, in the playful vernacular of Donald Barthelme. Ian Allen, The New Republic, "The Far Right’s Apocalyptic Literary Canon," 1 Oct. 2019 What stands out is that most of these musicians are largely unknown/unheard vernacular artistes. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "In India, the coronavirus outbreak has inspired some racist and sexist music," 10 Mar. 2020 Especially futile are comparisons to the New York Pop of Warhol and Lichtenstein, who tempered the shock of vernacular images with modernist formal cool—far more in tune with the sang-froid of minimalism than was initially noticed. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The In-Your-Face Paintings of Peter Saul," 10 Feb. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for vernacular

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The first known use of vernacular was in 1601

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Last Updated

13 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vernacular.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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How to pronounce vernacular (audio)

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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