Definition of sign in English:

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Pronunciation: /sīn/


1An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else: flowers are often given as a sign of affection [with clause]: the stores are full, which is a sign that the recession is past its worst
More example sentences
  • Scottish rugby may still be a long way from this lamentable state of affairs but it could be argued that the warning signs are present.
  • The warning signs were present; I just didn't recognize or act on them.
  • He had visited Clements at her home to assess the dogs and said neither of them presented any signs of aggressive behaviour, even when he deliberately goaded them.
indication, signal, symptom, pointer, suggestion, intimation, mark, manifestation, demonstration, token, evidence
literary sigil
1.1Something regarded as an indication or evidence of what is happening or going to happen: the signs are that counterfeiting is growing at an alarming rate
More example sentences
  • If that happens, and the signs are increasingly that it will, a historic turning point will have been reached.
  • But this time, the signs are very promising that change is on the way.
  • Like future terrorist acts, we can't be absolutely certain what will happen, but all the signs are there.
portent, omen, warning, forewarning, augury, presage, danger sign;
promise, threat
1.2 [with negative] Used to indicate that someone or something is not present where they should be or are expected to be: there was still no sign of her
More example sentences
  • A few minutes later they found her bicycle and newspapers in the road but there was no sign of Genette.
  • They may be on the verge of an appointment but there's no sign of an announcement as yet.
  • Another week had passed, after all, and still there was no sign of new arrivals.
1.3 Medicine An indication of a disease detectable by a medical practitioner even if not apparent to the patient. Compare with symptom.
Example sentences
  • None of the patients had clinical signs of ulcerogenic disease.
  • Finally, a subject who is asymptomatic, with no signs of liver disease should be labelled as a healthy carrier.
  • Patients who demonstrated signs of angina pectoris or severe arrhythmia or had diabetes mellitus were excluded from our study.
1.4A miracle regarded as evidence of supernatural power (chiefly in biblical and literary use).
Example sentences
  • Whilst some say cases such as these are mere coincidence others believe they are miracles and signs from God.
  • For the church after Acts did not have the miracles and signs of the kingdom, but the truth concerning the church which is the body of Christ.
  • In that era, the French and the Germans, like the British, believed their wealth and power were divine signs of their virtue.
1.5North American Any trace of a wild animal, especially its tracks or droppings: wolverine sign
More example sentences
  • But the signs were puzzling as they led us to every type of animal, from penguins to lions, EXCEPT the giant panda.
  • However, the interpretation of sign at nests to classify nest predators was almost wholly ineffective.
2A gesture or action used to convey information or instructions: she gave him the thumbs-up sign
More example sentences
  • Some adults gave thumbs-up signs, others watched sullenly as the 60 vehicles, bristling with weapons, crawled past.
  • At best, they receive a few quizzical stares, a couple of thumbs-up signs and a desperate waving of white flags.
  • When he passed two of the men sitting mid-cabin, he gave a thumbs-up sign.
gesture, signal, wave, gesticulation, cue, nod
2.1A notice that is publicly displayed giving information or instructions in a written or symbolic form: I didn’t see the stop sign
More example sentences
  • Just about every pub displays a sign or notice advising women to keep an eye on their drinks.
  • A teenaged driver who has been drinking beer does not notice the stop sign and hits the passenger side of the woman's car.
  • Government, in the form of traffic lights and stop signs and rules and regulations for driving, is absolutely required.
notice, signpost, signboard, warning sign, road sign, traffic sign, guidepost, marquee
2.2An action or reaction that conveys something about someone’s state or experiences: she gave no sign of having seen him
More example sentences
  • I might even say that such a reaction is a sign of profound ingratitude.
  • Zelda's eyes widened at this unexpected reaction, but other than that she showed no signs of fear.
  • He always accepted the smallest invitation or the most insignificant present with outward signs of pleasure.
2.3A gesture used in a system of sign language.
Example sentences
  • The system is based on simple signs and gestures derived from British Sign Language for the deaf taught through song.
  • Because ASL is based on natural gestures, most signs are incredibly easy to learn.
  • Use is made of repeated signs to convey such notions as plurality, degree, or emphasis.
2.4 short for sign language.
Example sentences
  • Every classroom should have a deaf teacher as well as one who can hear so that children are exposed to both sign and spoken language simultaneously.
2.5A symbol or word used to represent an operation, instruction, concept, or object in algebra, music, or other subjects.
Example sentences
  • In claiming, in this book, that language is essentially symbolic, I am alluding to the status of linguistic signs as symbols, rather than as icons or indexes.
  • A symbol is a sign used to represent something other than itself.
  • The short appoggiatura was then notated by the new sign.
symbol, mark, cipher, letter, character, figure, hieroglyph, ideogram, rune, emblem, device, logo
2.6A word or gesture given according to prior arrangement as a means of identification; a password.
Example sentences
  • Many marginalists use non-verbal codes - private signs and symbols recognised only by them.
3 (also zodiacal sign) Astrology Each of the twelve equal sections into which the zodiac is divided, named from the constellations formerly situated in each, and associated with successive periods of the year according to the position of the sun on the ecliptic: a person born under the sign of Virgo
More example sentences
  • If a planet is situated in a sign which opposes its own it is said to be in detriment, a word which literally means to be harmed or damaged.
  • It is the sign associated with intemperance and a craving for emotional excitement and sensuality.
  • In the water signs of Scorpio and Pisces we see a different expression of this energy.
4 Mathematics The positiveness or negativeness of a quantity.
Example sentences
  • The sign of the constant of proportion, c, in the equation above, will determine whether the process is one of growth or of decay.
  • Moreover, as just mentioned, the rate of adaptation negatively correlates with the sign of epistasis.
  • The sign of the coefficient on this variable is the opposite of that for the Gini coefficient.


1 [with object] Write one’s name on (a letter, card, or similar item) to identify oneself as the writer or sender: the card was signed by the whole class
More example sentences
  • Outraged by the Government's threat to their sub post offices, people have signed petitions and written letters urging ministers to think again.
  • They don't hesitate to sign petitions, write letters or otherwise share their opinions.
  • The rest of the detainees wrote and signed a letter that they had witnessed the abuse, and went on a hunger strike.
write, inscribe, pen
1.1Indicate agreement with or authorization of the contents of (a document or other written or printed material) by attaching a signature: the two countries signed a nonaggression treaty
More example sentences
  • When the Soviet Union signed the SALT I Treaty, it chose to build its ABM sites around Moscow and Leningrad.
  • Unsurprisingly, we are also selling to the Gaddafi government in Libya, another nation which has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention.
  • In 1997, the U.S. and 65 other countries signed the Chemical Weapons Convention.
endorse, validate, certify, authenticate, sanction, authorize;
agree to, approve, ratify, adopt, give one's approval to
informal give something the go-ahead, give something the green light, give something the thumbs up
1.2Write (one’s name) for purposes of identification or authorization: she signed her name in the book [with object and complement]: she signed herself Ingrid [no object]: he signed on the dotted line
More example sentences
  • More than 200 people have already signed their names and written messages of support since the book opened.
  • ‘These homeless are bums, nothing but leeches on society,’ wrote a guy who signed himself Trav.
  • She never learned to write and could only sign her name with a cross.
write one's name on, autograph, endorse, initial, countersign, ink
formal subscribe
1.3Engage (someone, typically a sports player or a musician) to work for one by signing a contract with them: the company signed 30 bands
More example sentences
  • He will need to find cover for the start of next season, be it in renewing a contract or signing a new player.
  • These clubs often wait for a contract to expire before signing a player, in order to eliminate any transfer fee involved.
  • Two years ago, 860 foreign-born players were signed to professional contracts by major league clubs.
recruit, hire, engage, employ, take on, appoint, sign on/up, enlist
1.4 [no object] Sign a contract committing oneself to work for a particular person or organization: Sherman has signed for another two seasons
More example sentences
  • "We just signed to a new label called Anubis, " explains DJ / producer Nabi.
  • Perhaps the biggest key to his success is not signing to a major label.
  • The band has signed to Primary Voltage Records, who will put out their LP later this year.
2 [no object] Use gestures to convey information or instructions: [with infinitive]: she signed to her husband to leave the room
More example sentences
  • Jess shook her head and signed to Dani, gesturing to Courtney and back to Bran.
  • He signed at her, indicating the direction they were walking in with a vague point of his index finger.
2.1Communicate in sign language: she was learning to sign
More example sentences
  • Mr Maxwell, whose speciality is French and English starters, can lip read quite well but can only speak a few words, so he relies on signing to communicate.
  • After ripping a steel sink from its moorings, the ape - famous for using sign language - signed to claim that her tiny pet kitten had done the damage
  • She recently completed a Level One exam in sign-language, and signed to the audience what it means for her to be chosen to enter this competition.
2.2 [with object] Express or perform (something) in sign language: (as adjective signed) the theater routinely puts on signed performances
More example sentences
  • The woman doing sign language during the broadcast instead signed to viewers the election was a fraud.
  • Koko is famous for knowing sign language, and she was able to sign to her handlers in California that she had a toothache.
  • He has also learnt sign language and can now sign 30 words and speak them clearly.
2.3 [with object] archaic Mark or consecrate with the sign of the cross.
Example sentences
  • He ran up to the front of the church demanding to be signed with the cross.



sign of the cross

A Christian sign made in blessing or prayer by tracing a cross from the forehead to the chest and to each shoulder, or in the air.
Example sentences
  • For example, Muslims whisper Allah's name in the baby's ear, and Christians make the sign of the cross in water on his or her forehead.
  • He frantically made the sign of the cross over his chest.
  • ‘Oh no… Lord, grant him mercy,’ Katherine said, making the sign of the cross on her chest.

sign of the times

Something judged to exemplify or indicate the nature or quality of a particular period, typically something unwelcome or unpleasant: the theft was a sign of the times
More example sentences
  • A few weeks ago, in another sign of the times, the chief judge of the Raboteau trial was attacked and severely beaten.
  • It is extremely rare that something like this should happen, but it is a sign of the times, sadly.
  • It's a shame there aren't a few more libertarian voices amongst the newcomers - but I supposed that's just a sign of the times.

signed, sealed, and delivered (or signed and sealed)

Formally and officially agreed and in effect.
Example sentences
  • We had hoped it all would be signed, sealed, and delivered by now.
  • Now, in this province, not only can you no longer trust a handshake deal, you can't even trust a signed and sealed legal document with all the fine print carefully scrutinized.
  • We are currently looking at the demolition tenders and we believe a deal will be signed and sealed within two months.

Phrasal verbs


sign something away/over

Officially relinquish rights or property by signing a deed: I have no intention of signing away my inheritance
More example sentences
  • It claims there was pressure on locals to sign their property over to oil executives.
  • He would give her access to all his bank accounts and sign the deed over to her.
  • So many of our powers have been signed away by successive governments that we can now make only 30 per cent of our own laws.
transfer, make over, hand over, bequeath, pass on, transmit, cede;
Law  devolve, convey

sign for

Sign a receipt to confirm that one has received (something delivered or handed over).
Example sentences
  • We rang City Link and asked them where the parcel was, they said it had been delivered to our address and was signed for by Jackson.
  • My mum had to sign for them when they were delivered.
  • The customer electronically signs for the call and confirmation goes to accounts for billing.

sign in

Sign a register on arrival, typically in a hotel.
Example sentences
  • They carry their own personal ID badges and all visitors must sign in and out of the building.
  • I suppose that if you didn't sign in on the council register you don't exist!
  • With a goodbye both Emma and Danny got out of the car and signed in to the hotel.

sign someone in

Record someone’s arrival in a register.
Example sentences
  • The chief fire officer signed him in as a firemen, when he arrived at the station.
  • They are welcome to use every part of the club as long as they are signed in.
  • I just hope my papa is correct in his assumption that if he signs me in as a guest it won't be a problem…

sign off

Conclude a letter, broadcast, or other message: he signed off with a few words of advice
More example sentences
  • It was their farewell message as they signed off.
  • The letter signs off with ‘I have no doubt we can look forward to your continued cooperation and support’.
  • ‘Our customers end up saving more and getting a lot more than yours do,’ said the letter before signing off as ‘Your friends at Wanadoo’.
5.1Sign to record that one is leaving work for the day.
Bridge 5.2 Indicate by a conventional bid that one is seeking to end the bidding.

sign someone off

Record that someone is entitled to miss work, typically because of illness.
Example sentences
  • He published statistics earlier this year saying that 80% of illnesses in the civil service were self-certified - in other words they had not been signed off by a doctor.
  • In the first place you don't necessarily need a doctor to sign you off.
  • McGhee said: ‘We're all hopeful the doctor will sign Timmy off.’

sign off on

US informal Assent or give one’s approval to: it was hard to get celebrities to sign off on those issues
More example sentences
  • After JEDC approval, City Council signed off on the request in November 2000.
  • In Houston we have four specific projects that he and I both signed off on.
  • Whether there were any sweetheart contracts he might have signed off on, as some reports suggest, remains to be seen.

sign on

chiefly British Commit oneself to employment, membership in a society, or some other undertaking: I’ll sign on with an advertising agency
More example sentences
  • I quickly realized that I made the biggest mistake of my life letting Tina sign on with a model agency.
  • In other words, like Jackson, Horry is smart enough to always sign on with the best team.
  • The deal also marks the first new U.S.-based sponsor to sign on with the league in more than a year.
enlist, take a job, join (up), enroll, register, volunteer

sign someone on

Take someone into one’s employment.
Example sentences
  • The hockey player has been signed on by the Government of Nunavut - all in aid of a worthy public cause.
  • His performances attracted the attention of City manager Tom Mitchell, who signed him on.
  • Meena recommended her to three top-notch producer-directors and Manisha was signed on by all three in one day!

sign out

Sign a register to record one’s departure, typically from a hotel.

sign someone out

Authorize someone’s release or record their departure by signing a register.
Example sentences
  • Postsurgery, guards signed her out against medical advice and confiscated her pain medication.
  • ‘Come on, Noe,’ her mother said, signing her out.
  • There, she found her father waiting for her, already signing her out of school.

sign something out

Sign to indicate that one has borrowed or hired something: I signed out the keys
More example sentences
  • The loan system is comparable to that of video rentals in that regardless of the time a bike is signed out, it is due back by 11p.m. on the following day.
  • I did just that, and the aircraft was signed out to another pilot minutes later.
  • There is no need to wonder whether the book is signed out.

sign up

Commit oneself to a period of employment or education or to some other undertaking: he signed up for a ten-week course
More example sentences
  • To what exactly did they think they were committing themselves when they signed up for the job?
  • She signed up for four movies under prestigious banners, even before a single release!
  • Instead of doing sporty things, I signed up for a class on willow weaving.
13.1Enlist in the armed forces.
Example sentences
  • One Elder told me quite simply he enlisted because others on the reserve were signing up.
(also sign something up)13.2 Conclude a business deal: the company has already signed up a few orders
More example sentences
  • There is still some way to go before the deal is signed up and even then it may take some time for any money to be released.
  • ABL has been operating the centre on behalf of the Council for seven years since it opened but will go it alone as soon as the deal is signed up.
  • However, those visiting the slopes of Bulgaria will not be covered by the card, as that country is not signed up to the free treatment deal.

sign someone up

Formally engage someone in employment.
Example sentences
  • If Romanov is serious, he should let Robertson identify the players he wants to keep at the club and sign them up on new contracts.
  • Earlier this year Lipman was signed up to promote her erstwhile employer's arch-rival, the Carphone Warehouse.
  • In 2003, Walker was signed up by the sportswear manufacturer despite being just three-and-a-half.



Pronunciation: /ˈsīnər/
Example sentences
  • The United States and other signers pledged never to ‘absolve’ a state of ‘any liability’ for the torture of POWs.
  • And if you go to the website you'll see that they've already compiled an impressive and very politically and religiously diverse least of signers.
  • To get 20,000 signers by September 2006, we will need approximately 15 new signatures per day on average.


Middle English: from Old French signe (noun), signer (verb), from Latin signum 'mark, token'.

  • Sign comes via Old French from Latin signum ‘mark, token’. From the same source come signal (Late Middle English), significant (late 16th century), signet (Late Middle English) ‘small seal’ with which you make your mark, and mid 16th-century signature, which was first used as a Scots legal term for a document presented by a writer for royal approval and seal. Resign (Late Middle English) is from Latin resignare ‘unseal, cancel’ See also seal

Words that rhyme with sign

align, assign, benign, brine, chine, cline, combine, condign, confine, consign, dine, divine, dyne, enshrine, entwine, fine, frontline, hardline, interline, intertwine, kine, Klein, line, Main, malign, mine, moline, nine, on-line, opine, outshine, pine, Rhein, Rhine, shine, shrine, sine, spine, spline, stein, Strine, swine, syne, thine, tine, trine, twine, Tyne, underline, undermine, vine, whine, wine

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sign

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