Definition of speak in English:

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Pronunciation: /spiːk/

verb (past spoke /spəʊk/; past participle spoken /ˈspəʊk(ə)n/)

[no object]
1Say something in order to convey information or to express a feeling: in his agitation he was unable to speak she refused to speak about the incident
More example sentences
  • I stood silent, unable to speak as the information slipped into my mind.
  • During their gigs, the six-some regularly distributes pamphlets of information and speaks on stage about causes they feel strongly about.
  • Israel was quiet, as if digesting that bit of information and then he spoke, harshly and firmly.
talk, say (anything/something);
utter, state, declare, tell, voice, express, pronounce, articulate, enunciate, vocalize, verbalize
rare enounce
1.1Have a conversation: last time we spoke, you told me you couldn’t do the job I’ll speak to him if he rings up
More example sentences
  • Maybe I would have never spoken to you, but that's because you don't speak to anyone.
  • Oh how I wish now that I had spoken to you, instead of waiting for you to speak to me.
  • She hadn't really tired to speak to Mark but then Mark hadn't spoken to her or shown any interest in talking at all to her since they had kissed.
have a conversation, talk, have a talk, have a discussion, converse, communicate, chat, have a chat, pass the time of day, have a word, gossip, make conversation
informal have a confab, chew the fat/rag
British informal natter, have a chinwag
North American informal shoot the breeze
rare confabulate
1.2 [with object] Utter (a word, message, etc.): patients copy words spoken by the therapist
More example sentences
  • Times change, priorities change, but as Faust speaks these words his real message is clear.
  • Tanis looked at Merlin without a word, but the expression on his face spoke a clear message.
  • ‘I love you’ her voice trembled as she spoke the three little words he had been dying to hear.
1.3 [with object] Communicate in or be able to communicate in (a specified language): my mother spoke Russian
More example sentences
  • They were also very intelligent and able to speak every language naturally.
  • Prospect New Town, for its part, speaks the language of community and celebrates authenticity.
  • Do you know which ones are able to speak the language you know?
1.4Make a speech or contribute to a debate: twenty thousand people attended to hear him speak
More example sentences
  • During his long speech, he finally speaks about the silence in which he has brought up his beloved son.
  • I also heard him speak at a lecture, which I found inspirational.
  • And in hearing her speak, I think she comes off very differently.
give a speech, give a talk, talk, lecture, give a lecture, deliver an address, give a sermon, hold forth, discourse, expound, expatiate, orate, harangue, sermonize, pontificate
informal spout, spiel, speechify, preachify, jaw, sound off, drone on
1.5 (speak for) Express the views or position of (another): he claimed to speak for the majority of local people
More example sentences
  • However, as reps and staff they must present the collective views of the organisation when speaking for it and be held publicly accountable.
  • It would also place a larger tax burden on all workers, including the ones she claims to be speaking for.
  • And she does have a right to speak, but not to claim she's speaking for others in these roles.
represent, speak on behalf of, act for, act on behalf of, appear for, intercede for, express the views of, act as spokesman for, act as spokeswoman for, act as spokesperson for
advocate, champion, uphold, defend, stand up for, support, speak in support of, promote, recommend, urge, back, endorse, sponsor, espouse
1.6Convey one’s views or position indirectly: speaking through his solicitor, he refused to join the debate
More example sentences
  • Zeynab will be speaking through an interpreter.
  • I… experienced a shift in awareness when reading some of the longer passages [to the court]. At times I felt like those men were speaking through me.
  • Thank you, Sammy, for speaking through this untalented man.
1.7 (speak to) Answer (a question) or address (an issue or problem): we should be disappointed if the report did not speak to the issue of literacy
1.8 (speak of) Mention or discuss in speech or writing: the books speak of betrayal
More example sentences
  • He begins at the beginning when he speaks of the act of writing.
  • Gray couldn't keep the pride out of his voice when he spoke of his eldest son writing a book.
  • It resembled the kind of cities she saw in books that spoke of what the future would look like.
mention, make mention of, talk about, discuss, refer to, make reference to, bring in, introduce, remark on, comment on, allude to, advert to, deal with, treat
2 (speak to) Talk to in order to reprove or advise: she tried to speak to Seb about his drinking
More example sentences
  • Mr Webb advised Mr Ball to speak to the staff and after Mr Simonet left he did so in an effort to persuade them to stay with CMSD.
  • Be a good mummy and give Nicky the phone so he can speak to the bad boy and make the bad boy be nice again.
  • At these moments, the girls spoke to me somewhat more formally and more seriously.
reprimand, rebuke, admonish, chastise, chide, upbraid, reprove, reproach, scold, remonstrate with, berate, take to task, pull up, castigate, lambaste, read someone the Riot Act, give someone a piece of one's mind, haul over the coals, lecture, criticize, censure
informal tell off, give someone a talking-to, give someone a telling-off, dress down, give someone a dressing-down, give someone an earful, give someone a roasting, give someone a rocket, give someone a rollicking, rap, rap over the knuckles, slap someone's wrist, send someone away with a flea in their ear, let someone have it, bawl out, give someone hell, come down on, blow up, pitch into, lay into, lace into, give someone a caning, put on the mat, slap down, blast, rag, keelhaul
British informal tick off, have a go at, carpet, monster, give someone a mouthful, tear someone off a strip, give someone what for, give someone stick, wig, give someone a wigging, give someone a row, row
North American informal chew out, ream out
British vulgar slang bollock, give someone a bollocking
North American vulgar slang chew someone's ass, ream someone's ass
dated call down, rate, give someone a rating, trim
rare reprehend, objurgate
2.1Talk to in order to give or obtain information: he had spoken to the police
More example sentences
  • She went on to say that when she spoke to the police she tried to help them by telling the truth.
  • Ellen dashed from the convertible and went to speak to the police.
  • They said they wanted to speak to me and she said, ‘He doesn't want to speak to the police’.
2.2Appeal or relate to: the story spoke to him directly
More example sentences
  • It has a regional appeal that speaks to Newfoundlanders but also to a heroic struggle with the harsh Canadian environment, much in the way that Nanook of the North did a decade earlier.
  • Come to Arizona, a land defined by its wild beauty, its simple openness, its elemental, eternal appeal that speaks to the child in us all.
  • If you're between the ages of 32 and 48, and this story spoke to you, I very much want to hear from you.
3(Of behaviour, an object, etc.) serve as evidence for something: everything in the house spoke of hard times and neglect [with object]: his frame spoke tiredness
More example sentences
  • It was his evidence that he spoke as loudly in the operating room that day as he did in the witness box - which would have been a fairly loud voice for such a setting.
  • The evidence speaks frequently of the 10.01 block and that is the first item in the left-hand column at 529.
  • Our case speaks in terms of evidence of identification being excluded if it would be unfair or if it was undertaken unfairly to the appellant.
indicate, mean, suggest, show, denote, display, demonstrate, be evidence of, register, reflect, reveal, betray, evince, disclose, exhibit, manifest;
express, convey, signify, impart, bespeak, communicate, bear out, attest, testify to, prove, evidence
literary betoken
3.1 [with object and infinitive or adverbial] archaic Show (someone or something) to be in a particular state or to possess a certain quality: she had seen nothing that spoke him of immoral habits
More example sentences
  • She had never seen any thing that betrayed him to be unprincipled or unjust, anything that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits.
  • Jane Austen's Darcy does not (I quote directly from Chapter 36 of Pride and Prejudice) have in his manner anything that spoke him of irreligious or immoral habits.
4(Of a musical instrument or other object) make a sound when functioning: the gun spoke again insufficient air circulates for the pipes to speak
More example sentences
  • Mozart raises the accompaniment to share some of that interest, so that the violin and the piano speak on relatively equal terms.
  • The remarkable thing, though, is that both instruments speak with a distinctive voice that is recognisably the same.
  • It's silence in remembrance of a talented, haunted man, but he deserves a eulogy, and his guitar speaks better than anyone ever could.
4.1(Of a hound) bark.
Example sentences
  • Every so often retrain the "Speak" command to keep this reinforcement.
  • Tell him to speak and then wait for him to speak.



not to speak of

Used in introducing a further factor to be considered: the rent had to be paid, not to speak of school fees
More example sentences
  • Although the appellant is a Punjabi, the Punjabi people are to be found all over India, not to speak of all over the world.
  • Plainly, the existence of French Canada, and of Quebec as a province with a francophone majority, not to speak of a distinct historical lineage, introduced a persistent ambiguity into any concept of a Canadian nation-state.
  • Of course, hockey remains deep within Indian hearts in these quadrennial sojourns, but the events leading up to the Games, not to speak of the record against top teams in recent months, do not inspire confidence.

something speaks for itself

The implications of something are so clear that no supporting evidence is needed: the figures speak for themselves
More example sentences
  • Well, I'm waiting to hear what else the defense puts up, but right now, the evidence speaks for itself.
  • The irrefutable evidence of unprecedented horrors speaks for itself after more than half a century.
  • The evidence of the visitations speaks for itself.

speak for oneself

Give one’s own opinions: I’m not speaking for me and Jack, I’m speaking for myself
More example sentences
  • They spoke for themselves and their comrades, those who had died as well as those who lay helpless in veterans' hospitals, forgotten by the prating politicians who publicly claimed to exalt them.
  • Inside the quiet, orderly courtroom, facing the judge, Libby spoke for himself.
  • And she spoke for herself, not for anyone else.

speak for yourself

[in imperative] Used to tell someone that an opinion they have expressed is not shared by oneself: ‘This is such a boring place.’ ‘Speak for yourself—I like it.’
More example sentences
  • Speak for yourself, but my aromatherapy mist is working wonders.
  • Speak for yourself but don't speak for me.

speak in tongues

Speak in an unknown language during religious worship, regarded as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
Example sentences
  • Pentecostals believe that every child of God should be his own minister, imbued directly with the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues.
  • But he was instead an apostle, an ad hoc theologian, a proclaimer, a charismatic who saw visions and spoke in tongues - and a religious genius.
  • Fuelled by American-style revivalism, the church emphasized radical gospel practices - such as speaking in tongues - that whipped worshippers into a frenzy.

speak one's mind

Express one’s opinions frankly: he is a tough politician who speaks his mind in a blunt way
More example sentences
  • They have wild opinions and they speak their mind.
  • Her mother had always taught her to speak her mind, have solid opinions, and never lose her head.
  • And I don't mind speaking my mind because I'm in a position to.

speak volumes

(Of a gesture, circumstance, etc.) convey a great deal without using words: a look that spoke volumes his record speaks volumes for his determination
More example sentences
  • ‘Don't bring my brother into this,’ Micah's tone was cold and spoke volumes more than the words themselves.
  • His expression spoke volumes his words could not.
  • Buffy stood up and walked toward Spike, and I could see how effortlessly her every gesture spoke volumes to him.

speak well (or ill) of

Praise (or criticize): the patients speak well of their doctors
More example sentences
  • After leaving school with good GCSEs he said she worked as a mobile hairdresser and was a woman that people spoke well of.
  • But the problem is that one side of this equation was always ignored in the effort to stamp out prejudice, and the side ignored was always the side that spoke well of the teller.
  • They are really great people who spoke well of Macalester.

—— to speak of

[with negative] Used to indicate that there is so little of something that it is hardly worth mentioning: I’ve no capital—well, none to speak of
More example sentences
  • One of the problems's there's hardly a music industry to speak of in Ukraine - at least not a legal one.
  • This movie doesn't have much of a plot to speak of - it mainly consists of a several skits tied together.
  • Obviously Waterloo lacks perspective on drinking laws and apparently has no real crime to speak of.

Phrasal verbs


speak out (or up)

Express one’s opinions frankly and publicly: the government will be forthright in speaking out against human rights abuses
More example sentences
  • He spoke out publicly during colonialism and in post-colonial politics against what he considered to be injustices.
  • I just don't know what companies are doing because they're not willing to speak out publicly.
  • The vast majority of artists, mind you, don't speak out publicly at all.
speak publicly, speak openly, speak boldly, speak frankly, speak one's mind, sound off, spout off, go on, stand up and be counted

speak up

Speak more loudly: We can’t hear you. Speak up!
More example sentences
  • The man sitting behind them leaned over and said: ‘Do you mind speaking up a bit?’
  • At one point the jury had to send a note to the judge to ask him to speak up, and he was the closest person to it.
  • Speak up? What a notion, coming as I did from the land of "Sit down, Francine" and "Be quiet, Francine".
speak (more) loudly, speak out, speak clearly, raise one's voice, shout, yell, bellow, call at the top of one's voice
North American informal holler

speak up for

Speak in support of: there was no independent body to speak up for press freedoms
More example sentences
  • To speak up for or defend animals who cannot defend themselves against abuse is not a crime, nor should it ever be one.
  • Orwell spoke up for what he saw as common human decencies - but these decencies were politically marginal, and thus in a sense not common at all.
  • Jack Locke is a person who speaks up for what he believes in.



Example sentences
  • He said: ‘It's about taking the unspeakable and making it speakable, It's about recognising that unless you ask you don't know.
  • And thus it is speakable or tangible only as perceived in the changes it effects.
  • Such threats aim to define the limits of the public sphere by setting limits on the speakable.


Old English sprecan, later specan, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch spreken and German sprechen.

  • The close relationship between speak and speech is clearer in the original Old English, where they are sprecan and sprēc, the ‘r’ dropping out of the words early on. ‘I speak as I find’, first appears in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew: ‘Mistake me not; I speak but as I find.’ Never speak ill of the dead has an even longer history. ‘Speak no evil of the dead’ is attributed to the Spartan magistrate Chilon as far back as the 6th century bc, and a later Latin proverb, de mortuis nil nisi bonum, can be translated as ‘say nothing of the dead but what is good’. The English version of the proverb is first recorded in the 16th century, originally in the form ‘rail not upon him that is dead’. Speakeasy (late 19th century) an American term for an unlicensed drinking establishment, gets its name for ‘speak’ and ‘easy’ in the sense ‘gently, softly’ from the need to be discreet when talking about it. See also ache

Words that rhyme with speak

antique, batik, beak, bespeak, bezique, bleak, boutique, cacique, caïque, cheek, chic, clique, creak, creek, critique, Dominique, eke, freak, geek, Greek, hide-and-seek, keek, Lalique, leak, leek, Martinique, meek, midweek, Mozambique, Mustique, mystique, oblique, opéra comique, ortanique, peak, Peake, peek, physique, pique, pratique, reek, seek, shriek, Sikh, sleek, sneak, Speke, squeak, streak, teak, technique, tongue-in-cheek, tweak, unique, veronique, weak, week, wreak

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: speak

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