Definition of semaphore in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsɛməfɔː/


[mass noun]
1A system of sending messages by holding the arms or two flags or poles in certain positions according to an alphabetic code: if you learn semaphore or the Morse code, you’ll have a fun way to send messages
More example sentences
  • The development of spin off technologies, such as the telegraph and semaphore flags, linked Civil War commanders on the first information net.
  • Use of semaphore flags was limited to within range of telescopes in earlier days and binoculars today.
  • She can calculate the location of a missing ice cream man from hints in photographs, she can build an action figure replica of her father from scratch, and she can use semaphore to pass messages between two feuding brothers.
1.1 [count noun] An apparatus for sending messages by semaphore, consisting of an upright with movable parts: the room was long enough to need a semaphore to signal from one end to the other
More example sentences
  • Like semaphores signaling an ambiguous statement, the chairs face away from the figures in the penultimate picture and virtually disappear in the varnished penumbra that concludes the final work of the cycle.
  • As they both maintain a tenacious grip on the receiver and attempt to get it away from the other, their arms swing from side to side like a signaling semaphore.
  • She fans her movements outward toward the sides of the body like a semaphore of swooping and crumpling limbs.
Image of semaphore
1.2 [count noun] A signal sent by semaphore: figurative I saw Edward jumping up and down, performing an elaborate semaphore with his hat
More example sentences
  • Sometimes I think of people as solitary automatons, sending out messages like semaphores that read: help.
  • Only three operations may be performed on a semaphore, all of which are atomic: initialize, decrement, and increment.


[with object]
Send (a message) by semaphore or by signals resembling semaphore: Josh stands facing the rear and semaphoring the driver’s intentions to frustrated queues of following cars
More example sentences
  • One could say the word ‘red’ aloud, or semaphore it from a cliff, or send it in Morse code, or write the French word ‘rouge’ on a blackboard, or point to a color chip.
  • He semaphores his designerlyness by wearing flouncy shirts and exuding a faint whiff of camp.
  • I'm speaking of Kelly's movie personality, as semaphored by his body language, and perhaps as filtered not by the age that he emerged from but by the one that followed him.



Pronunciation: /sɛməˈfɒrɪk/
Example sentences
  • The same could be said for most of the world's capitals, reduced in their filmic incarnations to semaphoric rough sketches, tourist snapshots, or broad caricatures.
  • I watched his semaphoric interchange with the conductor, his head-tip, cocking an ear toward his own hands, his right foot in rhythm with his senses on the pedal.


Pronunciation: /sɛməˈfɒrɪk(ə)li/
Example sentences
  • Clarke prefers to communicate by semaphorically wiggling his mouselike ears.
  • She seems to be bigger than Vanessa and to have more arms and legs - quite nice legs that somehow look sexy even though they are semaphorically knock-kneed.


Early 19th century (denoting a signalling apparatus): from French sémaphore, formed irregularly from Greek sēma 'sign' + -phoros.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sema|phore

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