Definition of talk in English:

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Pronunciation: /tɔːk/


[no object]
1Speak in order to give information or express ideas or feelings; converse or communicate by spoken words: the two men talked we’d sit and talk about jazz it was no use talking to Anthony [with object]: you’re talking rubbish
More example sentences
  • However, since I was so relieved to be talking to someone, I started talking with her friend.
  • As well as stopping and talking to people on the street we also spent a lot of time checking under bridges and talking with the homeless there.
  • For Arius, it was logically possible to talk about God without talking of him as Father.
speak, give voice, chat;
chatter, gossip, prattle, prate, babble, rattle on, blather, blether, orate
informal yak, gab, jaw, go on, chew the fat
British informal natter, rabbit, witter, chunter
North American informal rap, run off at the mouth
Australian/New Zealand informal mag
utter, speak, say, voice, express, articulate, pronounce, enunciate, verbalize, vocalize
converse, communicate, speak to each other, discuss things, have a talk, have a chat, have a tête-à-tête, confer, consult each other;
negotiate, have negotiations, parley, palaver
informal have a confab, chew the fat/rag, jaw, rap
formal confabulate
1.1Have the power of speech: he can talk as well as you or I can
More example sentences
  • He can only use his right hand and finds talking difficult as his speech is impaired.
  • He talks, but his speech has not developed at the rate it should.
1.2Discuss personal or intimate feelings: we need to talk, Maggie
More example sentences
  • What gets sacrificed is any time to talk, discuss, consider options, or enjoy each other's company.
  • It all points to the need to talk, to discuss, to jointly plan for the future without confrontation.
  • I talk to him every once in a while, and I went to his birthday party, but we never talk like we used to.
1.3 [with object and adverbial] Persuade or cause (someone) to do something by talking: don’t try to talk me into acting as a go-between
More example sentences
  • The negotiators would come up, attempt to talk this person into letting them go.
  • While at his daughter's home he developed an infection and after days of persuasion from his family was talked into going back into hospital.
  • He was talked out of a tightrope walk between two sky-scrapers to open a megastore in New York, but he has come close to death many times in publicity stunts.
persuade someone to, convince someone to, argue someone into, cajole someone into, coax someone into, bring someone round to, talk someone round to, inveigle someone into, wheedle someone into, sweet-talk someone into, influence someone to, prevail on someone to
informal hustle, fast-talk
dissuade from, persuade against, discourage from, deter from, stop, put off, advise against, urge against, divert from, argue out of
1.4 [with object] (be talking) informal Used to emphasize the seriousness, importance, or extent of the thing one is discussing: we’re talking big money
More example sentences
  • A while ago people were talking Oscar nominations, but it would really be an injustice if it got any.
  • Where the age or consent is a defence, well you're talking a different kettle of fish.
  • We're certainly not talking your average, run-of-the-mill love story here.
1.5Reveal secret or confidential information: dead men can’t talk
More example sentences
  • Multinationals will go to any lengths to keep their employees from talking, we can reveal.
  • Some talked and sold their secrets for their lives.
confess, speak out, speak up, reveal all, inform, tell tales, tell, divulge information, tell the facts, give the game away, open one's mouth
informal come clean, blab, squeal, let the cat out of the bag, spill the beans, spill one's guts, grass, sing, rat
1.6Gossip: you’ll have the whole school talking
More example sentences
  • She's the bride-to-be who's got the whole country talking about her cold feet.
  • He always was a big name here in New York, but now the whole country's talking about him.
  • These long ago promised chairs have had the whole office talking for weeks now.
gossip, spread rumours, pass comment, make remarks, criticize
2Have formal dealings or discussions; negotiate: they won’t talk to the regime that killed their families
More example sentences
  • We want them to talk to each other in addition to their governments talking.
  • North End confirmed they were talking to players, but refused to name names.
3 [with object] Use (a particular language) in speech: we were talking German
More example sentences
  • Where they couldn't talk the language, they made themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely.
  • In his anxiety he had forgotten that his only means of making me understand was to talk my language, so he jabbered away in his native German.
  • A candidate who can talk English in an Americanised accent will be the most favoured choice of these companies.
speak, speak in, talk in, communicate in, converse in, express oneself in, discourse in, use


1 [mass noun] Communication by spoken words; conversation or discussion: there was a slight but noticeable lull in the talk
More example sentences
  • In movies like this, a picture is worth a thousand words, and less talk would have been welcome.
  • In fact, careless talk and unciphered communications gave considerable help to German intelligence.
  • The avian flu virus which has generated much talk and discussion across continents in recent weeks is of a deadly nature.
chatter, chatting, chattering, gossiping, prattling, prating, gibbering, jabbering, babbling, gabbling, rattling on, speaking, talking
informal yakking, gabbing
British informal nattering, rabbiting, wittering
chat, conversation, discussion, gossip;
subject, theme, topic;
information, news
1.1 [count noun] A period of conversation or discussion, especially a relatively serious one: my mother had a talk with Louis
More example sentences
  • He was having a serious talk with his mother as soon as all this was over.
  • They were inseparable, those two, and of course their serious discussions and long talks with their parents resulted in the decision to be married.
  • Either way, I knew I was going to be having a serious talk with them about it.
conversation, chat, discussion, tête-à-tête, heart-to-heart, dialogue, colloquy, parley, powwow, consultation, conference, meeting
informal confab, jaw, chit-chat, rap, gossip
Australian informal convo
formal confabulation
1.2Rumour, gossip, or speculation: there is talk of an armistice
More example sentences
  • Brushing off talk of a whispering campaign against him in his own party, he claimed that Liberal Democrats were the party of tomorrow.
  • The new editor has instead upped news content and there is talk of launching a News Review section.
  • However, in response to the public outcry at the proposals, the council has now backtracked claiming talk of closure was a rumour.
gossip, rumour, hearsay, tittle-tattle, news, report
1.3Empty promises or boasting: he’s all talk
More example sentences
  • The promises and the tough talk are being met with justifiable skepticism.
  • For all their talk and promises of support, they have always placed self-preservation at the top of their list.
  • If we think about it together we might be able to do things beyond just empty talk.
1.4 (the talk of) A current subject of widespread gossip or speculation in (a particular place): within days I was the talk of the town
More example sentences
  • By the time I heard, the rumour had been the talk of the school for close to 20 minutes.
2 (talks) Formal discussions or negotiations over a period: peace talks
More example sentences
  • Singapore is also now in formal talks with Canada, China and Mexico for similar agreements.
  • Norway has indicated it has suspended formal involvement in the talks, adding to the pressure on the prime minister and the president to end the political stalemate.
  • No formal talks are under way, and there is a chance no deal will occur.
negotiations, discussions;
conference, summit, meeting, consultation, dialogue, symposium, seminar, conclave, colloquy, palaver, parley;
bargaining, haggling, wheeling and dealing;
mediation, arbitration, intercession, conciliation
informal powwow
formal confabulation
3An informal address or lecture: a thirty-minute illustrated talk a talk on a day in the life of an actor
More example sentences
  • Members of the Countryside Team will be present and there will be an informal talk, followed by a gentle walk through the park.
  • Earlier the peer educators had used a lecture-cum-discussion technique and but later switched over to informal talks in groups.
  • In his talk, Harvey will address the anxiety that string theory has produced.
lecture, speech, address, discourse, oration, presentation, report, sermon, disquisition, dissertation, symposium
informal spiel



you can't (or can) talk (US you shouldn't or should talk)

informal Used to convey that a criticism made applies equally well to the person who has made it: ‘He’d chase anything in a skirt!’ ‘You can’t talk!’
More example sentences
  • ‘You're the one that started this conversation so you shouldn't talk,’ I spat back.

don't talk to me about ——

informal Said in protest when someone introduces a subject of which the speaker has had bitter personal experience: don’t talk to me about credit cards—I just got the bill for my Christmas excesses today!
More example sentences
  • And don't talk to me about personal kinds of campaigning.
  • So don't talk to me about discrimination, or racism.
  • Tax the rich, and don't talk to me about capital flight.

know what one is talking about

Be expert or authoritative on a particular subject: I know what I’m talking about—I’ve built up three businesses from scratch
More example sentences
  • But why on earth, before one knows what one is talking about and without the scientific evidence to make a judgment, would one nevertheless make that judgment?
  • Unless one is in that situation and really knows what it is like to face those sorts of family difficulties, one does not know what one is talking about when pontificating about cultural sensitivities.

look (or hark) who's talking

another way of saying you can't talk .

talk a blue streak

see blue1.

talk about ——!

informal Used to emphasize that something is an extreme or striking example of a particular situation, state, or experience: talk about hangovers!

talk dirty

see dirty.

talk a good game

informal Speak fluently or convincingly about something without necessarily matching one’s words with actions: politicians talk a good game but don’t act
More example sentences
  • Everyone talks a good game, but some don't practice it the way they should.
  • Companies talk a good game when it comes to protecting their clients' personal information, but—when it comes to paying for that security—they're more apt to be "penny-wise and pound-foolish".
  • I cannot help but sense that he talks a good game about work, the future, and his principles, but when it comes to putting words into actions, he won't.

talk the hind leg off a donkey

British informal Talk incessantly: he could talk the hind leg off a donkey without ever letting you know what was in his mind
More example sentences
  • I am a person who can talk the hind leg off a donkey but I can see that this well earned title may go to someone else if I don't buck my ideas up.
  • My grandmother always did say I could talk the hind leg off a donkey!
  • I know that if I close my eyes, I can see Gail as she once was, happy and innocent and ready to talk the hind leg off a donkey.

talk nineteen to the dozen

see dozen.

talk of the devil

see devil.

talk sense into

Persuade (someone) to behave more sensibly: just as well she’s coming; she might be able to talk some sense into you
More example sentences
  • You can't talk sense into these people here.
  • Some officers try to talk sense into the taunters.
  • But I owe him a big thank you for talking sense into me.

talk shop

see shop.

talk through one's hat (or British arse or backside or US ass)

informal Talk foolishly, wildly, or ignorantly: come on, you’re talking through your hat on that
More example sentences
  • And for me to say anything about the intelligence dispute would be talking through my hat.
  • Good thing he's so electable, or he might have to stop talking through his hat.
  • I'm afraid, my old darling, that you are talking through your hat.

talk the talk

informal Speak fluently or convincingly about something or in a way intended to please or impress others: we may not look like true rock jocks yet, but we talk the talk
More example sentences
  • She talks the talk of the natural childbirth movement, which campaigns against the ‘doctor knows best’ approach to pregnancy and birth.
  • Going to football, or at least talking the talk, allowed politicians and journalists to express their common touch.
  • While Henry talked the talk, we were never very sure that he understood what was going on around him.

talk turkey

see turkey.

Phrasal verbs


talk at

Address (someone) in a hectoring or self-important way without listening to their replies: he never talked at you
More example sentences
  • This isn't easy to do whilst listening and talking at someone else.
  • They talk at rather than listen to customers; they don't interact with them and offer new products or services.
  • The time has come to have an NHS where the patients are listened to and not talked at.

talk back

Reply defiantly or insolently: all children talk back and act up from time to time he was always talking back to Dad about chores
More example sentences
  • Someone here said how their parents taught them to talk back if they disagreed with something.
  • He is the sort who talks back, but I think it is fine to have a bit of character.
  • She does an impression of a tough gal waiting tables in a diner, wearing the uniform with the name-badge and feistily talking back to the guy serving up food through the hatch.
answer back, answer defiantly, be impertinent, answer impertinently, be cheeky, be rude, contradict, argue with, disagree with

talk down to

Speak patronizingly or condescendingly to: there’s an art to informing people without talking down or pandering to them
More example sentences
  • I hate being talked down to, patronised and being told what is right and what is wrong.
  • I don't want to be talked down to in such a condescending way.
  • It carries information that is relevant to their lives, it's fun and it's written in a way that does not patronise or talk down to them.
condescend to, patronize, treat condescendingly, speak condescendingly to, speak haughtily to, look down one's nose at, look down on, put down, be snobbish to

talk something out

British (In Parliament) block the course of a bill by prolonging discussion to the time of adjournment.
Example sentences
  • Most private members' bills are talked out before reaching a vote, and on average only eight such bills have been passed in post-war Parliaments.
  • Last week, partly thanks to Government opposition, the MP saw his Referendum Bill fail in the House of Commons after it was talked out.
  • In Ontario, David Croll did introduce a private member's bill in 1939, but it was talked out during the last pre-war session.

talk someone out of

Persuade someone not to do (something unwise).
Example sentences
  • Even a stranger passing by a fighting couple could talk them out of the quarrel.
  • Neither could his Son who tried to talk him out of the trip.
  • In the end, he talked her out of suicide.

talk someone round (or US around)

Bring someone to a particular point of view by talking: you could never talk him round, he was very decided
More example sentences
  • Or maybe we can talk him around with one more argument; or perhaps his new colleagues can talk him around.
  • I didn't really want to go, but he talked me round.
  • I kept wanting to break it off but somehow he always talked me round.
persuade, prevail on, bring round, win over, influence, sway, convert, affect, bias;
manipulate, bend, mould

talk someone through

Enable someone to perform (a task) by giving them continuous instruction: the two presenters talk you through hanging different types of paper
More example sentences
  • He signaled the tow team supervisor to stop the operation and then got in the cab of the tow vehicle with the driver and talked him through this complicated task.
  • The solicitor talked us through all the legal steps and helped us draw up a will.
  • Jenna used scissors to cut the cord and at the same time we rang for an ambulance and they talked us through what to do until they arrived.

talk something over (or through)

Discuss something thoroughly: Collins wanted to talk over our arrangements for doing the work he needed to spend time talking through his feelings
More example sentences
  • One of the best parts of the movie for me was talking the movie over with friends, discussing our own interpretations.
  • As to the secret of 60 years of marriage, Ronald says: ‘We discussed everything and we talked our problems over.’
  • You can stay the whole break if you wish, Rose and I have thoroughly talked it over.

talk to

Reprimand or scold (someone): someone will have to talk to Lily
More example sentences
  • He let us take turns riding in the trailer until a traffic cop stopped and talked to us.

talk someone/thing up (or down)

Discuss someone or something in a way that makes them seem more (or less) interesting or attractive: he is talking up the company to stock analysts he has become feted by the fashionable and been talked up generally
More example sentences
  • If you are in the business of flogging houses, it is in your financial interest to talk the market up.
  • It's not even especially interestingly designed, despite attempts to try and talk it up.
  • He talks people down, stretches the truth, ignores or denies uncomfortable facts, is blatantly rude to anyone to questions him.
promote, push, boost, hype, merchandise, publicize, advertise, give publicity to, give a puff to, puff, puff up, build up, beat/bang the drum for
informal plug


Middle English: frequentative verb from the Germanic base of tale or tell1.

  • Talk is from the same root as tale (Old English) and tell. A person who talks incessantly is sometimes said to be able to talk the hind leg off a donkey. Versions of this expression go back to the 19th century but the animal may vary—Cobbett's Weekly Political Register for 1808 has ‘talking a horse's hind leg off’, and in 1879 the novelist Anthony Trollope mentioned talk the hind legs off a dog as an Australian variant. Another way of saying that someone chatters constantly is to accuse them of talking nineteen to the dozen. Presumably the idea is that the person is talking so quickly that they get in 19 words in the time it would take someone else to say a dozen. Nobody seems to know why 19 is the traditional number here, but the phrase has been in this form ever since it was first written down in the late 18th century. The term talking head for a television reporter who is viewed in close-up addressing the camera, is first recorded in the 1960s in the USA. Also American, also from the 1960s, is talk show, a programme in which the presenter talks informally to celebrities.

Words that rhyme with talk

auk, baulk, Bork, caulk (US calk), chalk, cork, Dundalk, Falk, fork, gawk, hawk, Hawke, nork, orc, outwalk, pork, squawk, stalk, stork, torc, torque, walk, york

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: talk

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