There are 2 main definitions of signal in English:

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signal 1

Line breaks: sig¦nal
Pronunciation: /ˈsɪɡn(ə)l/


1A gesture, action, or sound that is used to convey information or instructions, typically by prearrangement between the parties concerned: the firing of the gun was the signal for a chain of beacons to be lit [with infinitive]: the policeman raised his hand as a signal to stop
More example sentences
  • Jumping onto a table, Crush raised her hands in the air as a signal for her friends to stop they were doing; she watched as they obliged, halting their food war.
  • Tired, grumpy, she waved her hand as a signal for me to come in.
  • So we waited for either John our floor warden to let us know what we should do, or for an evacuation signal to sound.
gesture, sign, wave, gesticulation, cue, prompt, indicator, indication, communication, message;
alert, warning, tip-off;
action, movement, motion;
body language, kinesics
1.1An indication of a situation: the markets are waiting for a clear signal about the direction of policy
More example sentences
  • Education Leeds assistant chief executive Roland Absalom said it was a clear signal that the situation was improving.
  • The data on rising earnings comes amid conflicting signals about the job situation for technology professionals in the United States.
  • When the stressful situation ends, hormonal signals switch off the stress response and the body returns to normal.
indication, sign, symptom, hint, pointer, suggestion, intimation, clue, manifestation, demonstration;
token, testimony, evidence, attestation, proof
1.2An event or statement that provides the impulse for an occurrence: the champion’s announcement that he was retiring was the signal for scores of journalists to gather at his last match
More example sentences
  • A drop in the intracellular concentration of glutamine provides a signal for the activation of transcription of nitrogen-regulated genes.
  • The oxidative stress caused by ozone may serve as the initial signal for programmed cell death and a hypersensitive response.
  • Gerard Rice made it 2-1 for Newcastle midway through the second half, a signal for the Seasiders to turn up the pressure.
cue, prompt, occasion, green light, incentive, impetus, impulse, stimulus
informal go-ahead
1.3 Bridge A prearranged convention of bidding or play intended to convey information to one’s partner.
Example sentences
  • Make an agreement with your partner to look for the signal after each time that the cards are swept away.
  • When playing against a trump contract this can be achieved by a simple system of discard signals.
  • Naturally they will try to do this while the opponents are not looking, but as the signals do not need to be true, you can also try to confuse the opponents by passing misleading signals, at the risk of confusing your partner as well.
2An electrical impulse or radio wave transmitted or received: equipment for receiving TV signals
More example sentences
  • Each cell has a base station that transmits and receives signals over just a small fraction of the frequencies to which the network operator has access.
  • These chips feature an antenna to transmit and receive radio signals.
  • The development of the electromagnet about 1837 provided the American Samuel F. B. Morse with a way to transmit and receive electric signals.
3An apparatus on a railway, typically a coloured light or a semaphore, giving indications to train drivers of whether or not the line is clear: the driver of the mail train overran a signal at danger and ran into the rear of an express
More example sentences
  • At one point, we had to stop at an interlocking and the dispatcher couldn't clear the signal because of the train ahead.
  • At the Hayward's Heath accident in 1973 the driver misread the signals and drove his loopline train on to the main line and it was struck from behind by an express.
  • Mitchell said police had yet to determine whether the railway signals and gates were working at the time of the crash.

verb (signals, signalling, signalled; US signals, signaling, signaled)

[no object] Back to top  
1Convey information or instructions by means of a gesture, action, or sound: hold your fire until I signal
More example sentences
  • Madoka's father must have handed the parking attendant a tip ahead of time with instructions to signal when Madoka and her mother arrived.
  • Claire no sooner had entered the EMS station that the bell sounded, signaling that they were needed somewhere to help somebody.
  • After what seemed like an eternity to Jalen, the hunting horn sounded, signaling in the hunt's end.
1.1 [with object and infinitive] Instruct (someone) to do something by means of gestures or signs: she signalled Charlotte to be silent
More example sentences
  • I made motions with my hand signaling Elizabeth to keep it down.
  • She gave the thumbs-up sign to her mechanic, signaling him to get out of the way.
  • He leaned back and waved his hand signalling Andrea to go over to him.
gesture, sign, give a sign to, indicate, direct, motion, gesticulate;
wave, beckon, nod
1.2(Of a cyclist, motorist, or vehicle) indicate an intention to turn in a specified direction using an extended arm or flashing indicator: [with complement]: Stone signalled right [with infinitive]: the truck signalled to turn left
More example sentences
  • His report also states that the defendant vehicle signaled and turned left onto Orenda.
  • That may lead to the issue of whether he was simply following this tractor trailer too closely or whether, in fact, if the tractor trailer wasn't signaling.
  • It may be a split second of indecision at a roundabout, a moment's inattention while pulling out of a parking space, a failure to spot another driver signalling.
1.3 [with object] Indicate the existence or occurrence of (something) by actions or sounds: the Community could signal displeasure by refusing to cooperate [with clause]: she gave a glance which signalled that her father was being secretive
More example sentences
  • Counselors need to understand that the sound of sirens may signal danger to them.
  • She recognized the sound - it signalled a weapons lock-on.
  • For the best part of a century, that clanging sound signalled the abrupt end of an English night out.
indicate, show, express, communicate;
announce, proclaim, declare, pronounce


Pronunciation: /ˈsɪɡnələ/
Example sentences
  • The event on Saturday was aimed at highlighting the 15,000 jobs in more than 140 trades which the Army has to offer, with engineers, signallers, guardsmen and mechanics among those on hand to talk to young people and their families.
  • About 300 engineers and 700 signallers will be recruited from school leavers, graduates, those who took early retirement, people returning from a career break and professional engineers.
  • Thousands of drivers, signallers and maintenance workers walked out from 6.30 pm yesterday causing the worst travel disruption in the capital for two years.


Late Middle English: from Old French, from medieval Latin signale, neuter of late Latin signalis, from Latin signum 'mark, token' (see sign). The verb dates from the early 19th century.

Words that rhyme with signal

Definition of signal in:
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There are 2 main definitions of signal in English:

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signal 2 Line breaks: sig¦nal
Pronunciation: /ˈsɪɡn(ə)l/


Striking in extent, seriousness, or importance; outstanding: he attacked the government for their signal failure of leadership
More example sentences
  • Irony is of signal importance in English humour, in everything from radio comedy to literature.
  • Although of signal importance in itself, even the characteristic dominance must be seen as a by-product of serum testosterone.
  • It was not until near the end of Freud's life that he began to appreciate the signal importance of the infant's relationship with the mother.
notable, noteworthy, remarkable, striking, glaring, outstanding, significant, momentous, memorable, unforgettable, pronounced, marked, obvious;
impressive, distinguished, uncommon, unusual, particular, special, extraordinary, exceptional, conspicuous, rare


Pronunciation: /ˈsɪɡnəli/
Example sentences
  • But he signally failed to sort out rates of migration to these islands, which have peaked after being consistently low for a quarter-century.
  • It's made me think hard about the moments where my own leadership has been signally lacking.
  • What is it that the fourth increase in interest rates is likely to achieve where the previous three have so signally failed?


Early 17th century: from French signalé, from the Italian past participle segnalato 'distinguished, made illustrious', from segnale 'a signal'.

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