A language is a system of words and grammar used by a group of people. When we write and speak, we're using language.

Animals have amazing forms of communication, but the unique thing about people is our ability to use language. There are hundreds of languages in the world, and you might be learning a second language in school. A dictionary is an important tool in learning a language, but the grammar — how a language is put together — is a lot more complicated. Sign languages are languages too. You can also say that music and math have their own language.

Primary Meanings of language

a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols
the text of a popular song or musical-comedy number
Full Definitions of language

n a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols

“he taught foreign languages
“the language introduced is standard throughout the text”
“the speed with which a program can be executed depends on the language in which it is written”
linguistic communication
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the customary manner in which a language (or a form of a language) is spoken or written
dead language
a language that is no longer learned as a native language
language that is spoken or written
source language
a language that is to be translated into another language
object language, target language
the language into which a text written in another language is to be translated
sign language, signing
language expressed by visible hand gestures
artificial language
a language that is deliberately created for a specific purpose
a language that can be used to describe languages
native language
the language that a person has spoken from earliest childhood
indigenous language
a language that originated in a specified place and was not brought to that place from elsewhere
superstrate, superstratum
the language of a later invading people that is imposed on an indigenous population and contributes features to their language
natural language, tongue
a human written or spoken language used by a community; opposed to e.g. a computer language
interlanguage, koine, lingua franca
a common language used by speakers of different languages
linguistic string, string of words, word string
a linear sequence of words as spoken or written
barrage, bombardment, onslaught, outpouring
the rapid and continuous delivery of linguistic communication (spoken or written)
language characterized by excessive use of slang or cant
a string of words satisfying the grammatical rules of a language
syntagm, syntagma
a syntactic string of words that forms a part of some larger syntactic unit
finger spelling, fingerspelling
an alphabet of manual signs
ASL, American sign language
the sign language used in the United States
an artificial language related to Ido
an artificial language intended for international use as an auxiliary language
Basic English
a simplified form of English proposed for use as an auxiliary language for international communication; devised by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards
Blaia Zimondal
an artificial language
an artificial language based on Esperanto and Ido
an artificial language based as far as possible on words common to all the European languages
an artificial language proposed as an auxiliary European language
Idiom Neutral
an artificial language proposed for use as an auxiliary international language; based on Volapuk but with a vocabulary selected on the basis of the maximum internationality of the roots
an artificial language proposed for use as an auxiliary international language; based on words common to English and the Romance languages
an artificial language that is a revision and simplification of Esperanto
an artificial language based on Latin
an artificial language based on words common to the Romance languages
an artificial language
Lingvo Kosmopolita
an artificial language
an artificial language
an artificial language based on Esperanto
an artificial language
an artificial language based on Latin
an artificial language
an artificial language
an artificial international language using characters (as mathematical symbols) instead of words to express ideas
an artificial language for international use that rejects all existing words and is based instead on an abstract analysis of ideas
an artificial language
an artificial language
one of the first artificial language constructed for use as an auxiliary international language; based largely on English but with some German and French and Latin roots
programing language, programming language
(computer science) a language designed for programming computers
application-oriented language, problem-oriented language
a language whose statements resemble terminology of the user
command language, query language, search language
a source language consisting of procedural operators that invoke functions to be executed
syntax language
a language used to describe the syntax of another language
substrate, substratum
an indigenous language that contributes features to the language of an invading people who impose their language on the indigenous population
first language, maternal language, mother tongue
one's native language; the language learned by children and passed from one generation to the next
tonal language, tone language
a language in which different tones distinguish different meanings
a mother tongue that originates from contact between two languages
an artificial language used for trade between speakers of different languages
American Indian, American-Indian language, Amerind, Amerindian language, Indian
any of the languages spoken by Amerindians
Eskimo-Aleut, Eskimo-Aleut language
the family of languages that includes Eskimo and Aleut
Chukchi, Chukchi language
an indigenous and isolated language of unknown origin spoken by the Chukchi that is pronounced differently by men and women
Sino-Tibetan, Sino-Tibetan language
the family of tonal languages spoken in eastern Asia
Austro-Asiatic, Austro-Asiatic language, Munda-Mon-Khmer
a family of languages spoken in southern and southeastern Asia
Hmong, Hmong language, Miao
a language of uncertain affiliation spoken by the Hmong
Austronesian, Austronesian language
the family of languages spoken in Australia and Formosa and Malaysia and Polynesia
Papuan, Papuan language
any of the indigenous languages spoken in Papua New Guinea or New Britain or the Solomon Islands that are not Malayo-Polynesian languages
Khoisan, Khoisan language
a family of languages spoken in southern Africa
Indo-European, Indo-European language, Indo-Hittite
the family of languages that by 1000 BC were spoken throughout Europe and in parts of southwestern and southern Asia
a (postulated) group of languages including many of the indigenous languages of Russia (but not Russian)
the language of the Basque people; of no known relation to any other language
Elamite, Elamitic, Susian
an extinct ancient language of unknown affinities; spoken by the Elamites
Cassite, Kassite
an ancient language spoken by the Kassites
Caucasian, Caucasian language
a number of languages spoken in the Caucasus that are unrelated to languages spoken elsewhere
Dravidian, Dravidian language, Dravidic
a large family of languages spoken in south and central India and Sri Lanka
Afrasian, Afrasian language, Afro-Asiatic, Afroasiatic, Afroasiatic language, Hamito-Semitic
a large family of related languages spoken both in Asia and Africa
Niger-Kordofanian, Niger-Kordofanian language
the family of languages that includes most of the languages spoken in Africa south of the Sahara; the majority of them are tonal languages but there are important exceptions (e.g., Swahili or Fula)
Nilo-Saharan, Nilo-Saharan language
a family of East African languages spoken by Nilotic peoples from the Sahara south to Kenya and Tanzania
Type of:
something that is communicated by or to or between people or groups

n a system of words used to name things in a particular discipline

“the language of sociology”
nomenclature, terminology
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markup language
a set of symbols and rules for their use when doing a markup of a document
toponomy, toponymy
the nomenclature of regional anatomy
SGML, standard generalized markup language
(computer science) a standardized language for the descriptive markup of documents; a set of rules for using whatever markup vocabulary is adopted
HTML, hypertext mark-up language, hypertext markup language
a set of tags and rules (conforming to SGML) for using them in developing hypertext documents
Type of:
a unit of language that native speakers can identify

n (language) communication by word of mouth

“he uttered harsh language
“he recorded the spoken language of the streets”
oral communication, speech, speech communication, spoken communication, spoken language, voice communication
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
negotiations between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics opened in 1969 in Helsinki designed to limit both countries' stock of nuclear weapons
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the words that are spoken
orthoepy, pronunciation
the way a word or a language is customarily spoken
the use of speech for informal exchange of views or ideas or information etc.
discussion, give-and-take, word
an exchange of views on some topic
expression, locution, saying
a word or phrase that particular people use in particular situations
non-standard speech
speech that differs from the usual accepted, easily recognizable speech of native adult members of a speech community
the language or speech of one individual at a particular period in life
a long utterance by one person (especially one that prevents others from participating in the conversation)
charm, magic spell, magical spell, spell
a verbal formula believed to have magical force
speech intended for reproduction in writing
monologue, soliloquy
speech you make to yourself
one of the eight sayings of Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount; in Latin each saying begins with `beatus' (blessed)
a saying of Jesus that is regarded as authentic although it is not recorded in the Gospels
calque, calque formation, loan translation
an expression introduced into one language by translating it from another language
advice and consent
a legal expression in the United States Constitution that allows the Senate to constrain the President's powers of appointment and treaty-making
an expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context
an inoffensive or indirect expression that is substituted for one that is considered offensive or too harsh
an offensive or disparaging expression that is substituted for an inoffensive one
an expression of disappointment or irritation
Received Pronunciation
the approved pronunciation of British English; originally based on the King's English as spoken at public schools and at Oxford and Cambridge Universities (and widely accepted elsewhere in Britain); until recently it was the pronunciation of English used in British broadcasting
tongue twister
an expression that is difficult to articulate clearly
a lively or heated interchange of ideas and opinions
phatic communication, phatic speech
conversational speech used to communicate sociability more than information
a mutual expression of views (especially an unpleasant one)
chat, confab, confabulation, schmoose, schmooze
an informal conversation
gossiping, gossipmongering
a conversation that spreads personal information about other people
talk, talking
an exchange of ideas via conversation
inconsequential conversation
social exchange, especially of opinions, attitudes, etc.
formal conversation
argument, argumentation, debate
a discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal
voluble conversation
rap session
conversation in a situation where feelings can be expressed and criticized or supported
second-hand speech
overheard conversation (especially overheard cellphone conversation)
table talk
conversation during a meal
telephone conversation
a conversation over the telephone
a private conversation between two people
(usually plural) discussion of all sides of a question
conference, group discussion
a discussion among participants who have an agreed (serious) topic
panel discussion
discussion of a subject of public interest by a group of persons forming a panel usually before an audience
post-mortem, postmortem
discussion of an event after it has occurred
public discussion, ventilation
free and open discussion of (or debate on) some question of public interest
dialogue, negotiation, talks
a discussion intended to produce an agreement
anatomical, anatomical reference
an expression that relates to anatomy
a locution or pronunciation peculiar to the southern United States
catchword, motto, shibboleth, slogan
a favorite saying of a sect or political group
axiom, maxim
a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits
epigram, quip
a witty saying
adage, byword, proverb, saw
a condensed but memorable saying embodying some important fact of experience that is taken as true by many people
idiom, idiomatic expression, phrasal idiom, phrase, set phrase
an expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up
sayings of Jesus not recorded in the canonical Gospels
a correct expression that takes the place of a popular but incorrect expression
baby talk, babytalk
the developing speech of a young child
baby talk, babytalk, motherese
an adult's imitation of the speech of a young child
accent, dialect, idiom
the usage or vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people
a phrase or pronunciation that is peculiar to a particular locality
a feature (as a pronunciation or expression or custom) that is characteristic of a particular region
language characterized by terseness and ellipsis as in telegrams
the everyday speech of the people (as distinguished from literary language)
argot, cant, jargon, lingo, patois, slang, vernacular
a characteristic language of a particular group (as among thieves)
slang, slang expression, slang term
informal language consisting of words and expressions that are not considered appropriate for formal occasions; often vituperative or vulgar
conjuration, incantation
a ritual recitation of words or sounds believed to have a magical effect
curse, hex, jinx, whammy
an evil spell
Type of:
auditory communication
communication that relies on hearing

n the mental faculty or power of vocal communication

language sets homo sapiens apart from all other animals”
Type of:
faculty, mental faculty, module
one of the inherent cognitive or perceptual powers of the mind

n the cognitive processes involved in producing and understanding linguistic communication

“he didn't have the language to express his feelings”
linguistic process
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the cognitive process of understanding a written linguistic message
reading at speeds significantly faster than normal
perusal, perusing, poring over, studying
reading carefully with intent to remember
browse, browsing
reading superficially or at random
skim, skimming
reading or glancing through quickly
Type of:
higher cognitive process
cognitive processes that presuppose the availability of knowledge and put it to use

n the text of a popular song or musical-comedy number

“the song uses colloquial language
lyric, words
love lyric
the lyric of a love song
Type of:
text, textual matter
the words of something written

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