lan·​guage | \ ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio) , -wij \

Definition of language

1a : the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community studied the French language
b(1) : audible, articulate, meaningful sound as produced by the action of the vocal organs
(2) : a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings the language of mathematics
(3) : the suggestion by objects, actions, or conditions of associated ideas or feelings language in their very gesture— William Shakespeare
(4) : the means by which animals communicate the language of birds
(5) : a formal system of signs and symbols (such as FORTRAN or a calculus in logic) including rules for the formation and transformation of admissible expressions
2a : form or manner of verbal expression specifically : style the beauty of Shakespeare's language
b : the vocabulary and phraseology belonging to an art or a department of knowledge the language of diplomacy medical language
c : profanity shouldn't of blamed the fellers if they'd cut loose with some language— Ring Lardner
3 : the study of language especially as a school subject earned a grade of B in language
4 : specific words especially in a law or regulation The police were diligent in enforcing the language of the law.

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Examples of language in a Sentence

How many languages do you speak? French is her first language. The book has been translated into several languages. He's learning English as a second language. a new word that has recently entered the language the formal language of the report the beauty of Shakespeare's language She expressed her ideas using simple and clear language. He is always careful in his use of language.
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Recent Examples on the Web On Monday, additional details of the emails – some containing homophobic and misogynistic language – between Gruden and associates leaked. Mike Jones, USA TODAY, 12 Oct. 2021 The scandal deepened on Monday when the New York Times reported that Gruden repeatedly used misogynistic and homophobic language over several years and denounced the league’s female referees and its first openly-gay player. Claire Zillman, Fortune, 12 Oct. 2021 The duo will serve as co-presidents. With backing from German powerhouse Constantin Film and a strategic partnership with Bron, Upgrade will develop and produce premium local language productions for a global audience. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 12 Oct. 2021 The Gardners’ findings challenged the premise that humans are uniquely equipped to express themselves through language., 12 Oct. 2021 Ronan Burtenshaw, the editor of the British socialist magazine Tribune, said Forward has cynically decided to make this about language. Saphora Smith, NBC News, 12 Oct. 2021 The additional language versions have added $1 million in sales to the campaign so far, Frazier said. David Bloom, Forbes, 12 Oct. 2021 Cyndi Rademacher, executive director of the Niles-Maine District Library, declined to answer a question inquiring how much in funding for foreign language materials has been reduced this budget year. Jennifer Johnson,, 12 Oct. 2021 These massive networks — astoundingly successful at tasks such as classifying images, recognizing speech and translating text from one language to another — have begun to dominate machine learning and artificial intelligence. Quanta Magazine, 11 Oct. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'language.' 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 language

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for language

Middle English, from Anglo-French langage, from lange, langue tongue, language, from Latin lingua — more at tongue

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Time Traveler for language

Time Traveler

The first known use of language was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near language



language arts

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Statistics for language

Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Language.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for language



English Language Learners Definition of language

: the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other
: any one of the systems of human language that are used and understood by a particular group of people
: words of a particular kind


lan·​guage | \ ˈlaŋ-gwij How to pronounce language (audio) \

Kids Definition of language

1 : the words and expressions used and understood by a large group of people the English language
2 : spoken or written words of a particular kind She used simple and clear language.
3 : a means of expressing ideas or feelings sign language
4 : a formal system of signs and symbols that is used to carry information a computer language
5 : the special words used by a certain group or in a certain field the language of science
6 : the study of languages

More from Merriam-Webster on language

Nglish: Translation of language for Spanish Speakers

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


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