Definition of language in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlaNGɡwij/


1The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way: a study of the way children learn language [as modifier]: language development
More example sentences
  • After spoken language came the written word, and the boy dove into literature with grim determination.
  • This play on the oral and written language mirrors the structure of the blues and the instrumental variations of jazz.
  • In Darwin's apt phrase, the ability of humans to learn language is ‘an instinctive tendency to acquire an art’.
1.1Any nonverbal method of expression or communication: a language of gesture and facial expression
More example sentences
  • The interesting question is whether the non-verbal language is conscious or not.
  • Neuroliguistic programing with nonverbal language might function… it works when I want to shoo away book sellers.
  • Body language, expressions, and environmental cues can deepen emotional bonds.
speech, writing, communication, conversation, speaking, talking, talk, discourse;
words, vocabulary
2The system of communication used by a particular community or country: the book was translated into twenty-five languages
More example sentences
  • In many communities switching between languages serves important functions.
  • Such verse was unknown in classical Greek but common in Latin and the Celtic and Germanic languages.
  • In many communities, the language of choice is neither of Canada's two official languages.
tongue, mother tongue, native tongue;
dialect, patois, slang, idiom, jargon, argot, cant
informal lingo
2.1 Computing A system of symbols and rules for writing programs or algorithms: a new programming language
More example sentences
  • It stands for Structured Query Language and is a language that all relational databases understand.
  • A simple port scanner can be written in under 15 minutes by a good programmer in a language such as Java or Perl.
  • Whether this is done by studying a programming language like C or PERL, or any of the many others, is immaterial.
3The manner or style of a piece of writing or speech: he explained the procedure in simple, everyday language
More example sentences
  • More specifically there are discussions of his language and poetic style as well as of the topics and ideas in his work.
  • And later, these men and women had to do a minute analysis of one another's diction, style, language, and so on.
  • His work, with its different theatrical styles and unique language, has invented an entirely new kind of theatre experience.
3.1The phraseology and vocabulary of a certain profession, domain, or group of people: legal language
More example sentences
  • Although phrased in diplomatic language, this was a clear warning to China not to seek to retake Taiwan by force.
  • The cardinal's claim, filed in court by his attorneys, is boilerplate legal defense language.
  • The serpentine syntax of legal language is often used to obfuscate meaning and confuse those outside the law.
wording, phrasing, phraseology, style, vocabulary, terminology, expressions, turns of phrase, parlance, form/mode of expression, usages, locutions, choice of words, idiolect
informal lingo
3.2 (usually as bad/strong language) Coarse, crude, or offensive language: strong language
More example sentences
  • A strict control of blasphemy and bad language and other offensive things was maintained.
  • Caution: this article contains strong language and may be offensive to some readers.
  • Profanity, vulgarity, bad language and all such other improprieties of speech were things that just might cause him to all but faint.


speak the same language

Understand one another as a result of shared opinions or values.
Example sentences
  • In addition, she thinks that genuine fashion experts need a website that can speak the same language and recognise the value of, say, an original 1950s Chanel pastel-tweed suit.
  • Maybe they are, but don't believe for a second that it follows that you'll understand them, or that you're actually speaking the same language.
  • The JNIR speaks the same language as the media buyers, and it makes people understand the medium.


Middle English: from Old French langage, based on Latin lingua 'tongue'.

  • The word language is from Old French langage, based on Latin lingua ‘tongue’, which is also found in linguist (late 16th century), and goes back to an Indo-European root shared with lick (Old English). The expression to lick someone into shape comes from the old tradition that bear cubs were born a formless mass, and had literally to be licked into shape by their mothers. Lingo (mid 17th century) is probably from the Portuguese form of lingua.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: lan·guage

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