Definition of language in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The 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’
    • ‘Her mum Sara and dad Billy, of Belthorn Road, Belthorn, said they were delighted Ellie could now begin to learn spoken language.’
    • ‘To me, this suggests that human language, or communication has a physical effect on the physiology of the natal child.’
    • ‘The structural nature of language removes the written word from a direct relationship with its physical referent.’
    • ‘During early childhood, children with dyslexia have difficulties learning spoken language.’
    • ‘This play on the oral and written language mirrors the structure of the blues and the instrumental variations of jazz.’
    • ‘Chomsky and the deep structure of language, yeah, that is what you are referring to.’
    • ‘Learning words is not learning language, but it is a necessary step, possibly a first step.’
    • ‘There is surely more nonsense written about language than about any other topic.’
    • ‘Written language is a also [sic] a human invention, like spoken language, but it is not a universal invention.’
    • ‘Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to the spoken and written language and the ability to learn languages.’
    • ‘Written language generally uses more complex grammatical constructions than spoken language does.’
    • ‘When we are growing up and learning language, the words apply to ‘obviously different’ groups.’
    • ‘Generally speaking, language provides our primary method of communication.’
    • ‘His theory of grammar, forged at this time, holds that grammar, the capability to form structured language, is innate to the human mind.’
    • ‘His research interests include biliteracy, language policy, and language development.’
    • ‘After spoken language came the written word, and the boy dove into literature with grim determination.’
    • ‘It is estimated that it was about 100,000 years ago that humans developed spoken language.’
    • ‘The grammars of these languages contain vital clues to the nature of the human language faculty, which is still very much an unsolved problem.’
    • ‘Somehow the idea was that you learn your language through speaking it, and knowing what a noun and a verb are is a distraction.’
    • ‘In Darwin's apt phrase, the ability of humans to learn language is ‘an instinctive tendency to acquire an art’.’
    1. 1.1A non-verbal method of expression or communication.
      ‘body language’
      • ‘Non-verbal language has been relegated to a chapter on human evolution in science books.’
      • ‘Chapter Five discusses the music and character gestures, eye language, focus and emotion.’
      • ‘Body language, expressions, and environmental cues can deepen emotional bonds.’
      • ‘Body language and even positive speech can bring tremendous destruction.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Is de Oliveira making a statement about the futility of verbal intercourse, or the expressive language of feet?’
      • ‘If we don't invent a language, if we don't find our body's language, its gestures will be too few to accompany our story.’
      speech, writing, communication, verbal expression, verbalization, vocalization, conversation, speaking, talking, words, utterance, vocabulary, articulation, enunciation, pronunciation, talk, discourse, interchange, intercourse, interaction
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  • 2A system of communication used by a particular country or community.

    ‘the book was translated into twenty-five languages’
    • ‘It is argued that these results have practical importance for teaching English as a second language.’
    • ‘In only one romance is the original language a Celtic language, and that is rather late in the schema of this material.’
    • ‘In many communities switching between languages serves important functions.’
    • ‘With an easy command of two languages and her local dialect, the world can open up for her.’
    • ‘This disappoints me a little, as I was quite fond of the idea that the first languages were sign languages.’
    • ‘Because the language of study and communication was English, the Hindus forgot about Sanskrit.’
    • ‘One of the placements should involve communication in a language other than English, at least at a basic level.’
    • ‘Tigrinya is a language whose sound system is quite exotic from an English speaker's point of view.’
    • ‘I think there is a great deal of potential for new languages and modes of communication to be developed on the net.’
    • ‘There are a vast number of languages that are known as tone languages or tonal languages.’
    • ‘In many communities, the language of choice is neither of Canada's two official languages.’
    • ‘An analogous account can be given of many of the bound morphemes of English and other languages.’
    • ‘Such verse was unknown in classical Greek but common in Latin and the Celtic and Germanic languages.’
    • ‘Investors have found this a great asset in the global economy, as the language of business communication is English.’
    • ‘It's easy to switch to a language you do know well if you get stuck and it isn't all that complicated.’
    • ‘Czech is a Slavic language with a declension system based on seven cases.’
    • ‘It is argued here that the study of natural sign languages can enhance our understanding of what language is.’
    • ‘The Basques are a distinct community with a unique language in what is today northern Spain and south west France.’
    • ‘Private schools are permitted to use any language as the language of instruction.’
    • ‘Anyone who has worked on an undocumented language or dialect will be familiar with this kind of situation.’
    tongue, speech, mother tongue, native tongue, dialect, vernacular
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    1. 2.1Computing A system of symbols and rules for writing programs or algorithms.
      ‘the systems were developed using languages such as Fortran and Basic’
      • ‘A simple port scanner can be written in under 15 minutes by a good programmer in a language such as Java or Perl.’
      • ‘For many system administrators, myself included, Perl is the scripting language of choice.’
      • ‘It stands for Structured Query Language and is a language that all relational databases understand.’
      • ‘Whether this is done by studying a programming language like C or PERL, or any of the many others, is immaterial.’
      • ‘Programmers must evolve to writing applications in higher programming languages.’
  • 3[mass noun] The style of a piece of writing or speech.

    ‘he explained the procedure in simple, everyday language’
    • ‘Chief among her gifts is the ability to consider everyday language as if entirely from outside of it.’
    • ‘But I'm saying things which are so naked, and often in a very poetic language that is somehow so personal.’
    • ‘And later, these men and women had to do a minute analysis of one another's diction, style, language, and so on.’
    • ‘Its language and style remain miles away from the day-to-day concerns of ordinary black South Africans.’
    • ‘It may well be an immaculately written novel, correctly spelt, beautifully punctuated, and full of poetic language and noble ideas.’
    • ‘Behind the humour, however, one finds a novel of great merit and depth, constructed in the most poetic language, and not at all about fish.’
    • ‘Most appealing about the show was the romantic theme and the gorgeous poetic yet contemporary language, says MacLeod.’
    • ‘The aims of the scheme are to demystify science in the eyes of students and to get scientists to explain what they do in normal, everyday language.’
    • ‘Not a single piece of ambiguous language obscured the food on offer.’
    • ‘More specifically there are discussions of his language and poetic style as well as of the topics and ideas in his work.’
    • ‘The book marries witty, Jane Austen-ish language and style against an imagined tapestry of fairy magic.’
    • ‘The finance minister echoes this theme in more deliberate language in his speech to Northland business people.’
    • ‘Another way to say this is that Ungaretti now felt a need to substantialize further his poetic language.’
    • ‘It is written in a smooth and engaging style using accessible language without simplifying the arguments.’
    • ‘Instead of conversing in regular, everyday language, they first have to turn what they want to say over in their heads.’
    • ‘The tone of Boyfriend! is of someone older writing for a younger audience in simple language.’
    • ‘This symbolism, Wilson's poetic language and his vivid characters are the play's strengths.’
    • ‘Despite her poetic language Fréchette does not avoid making rather obvious lessons of Helen's journey.’
    • ‘His work, with its different theatrical styles and unique language, has invented an entirely new kind of theatre experience.’
    • ‘The language and style were militant, authoritative, and riddled with the easy obscenities typical of male talk.’
    1. 3.1The phraseology and vocabulary of a particular profession, domain, or group.
      ‘legal language’
      • ‘It is very challenging for us to investigate and try to find the right theatrical language to express this play as far as we can.’
      • ‘Some things could only be expressed in the compact language of mathematics.’
      • ‘However, there is a severe shortage of people able to draft bills in the correct legal language.’
      • ‘As originally outlined, these research areas were phrased totally in scientific and technological language.’
      • ‘He had tried to express in scholarly language the excitement we all felt.’
      • ‘New Zealand First often finds it difficult to distinguish why and how legal language and terminology can go down that path.’
      • ‘The ghost of slavery is built into our legal language and holds our prison system in its grip.’
      • ‘The cardinal's claim, filed in court by his attorneys, is boilerplate legal defense language.’
      • ‘Disguised in the legal language is a set of rules to facilitate the corporate takeover of global services.’
      • ‘In cold legal language it all sounded, and was, less generous and expansive than it had seemed in the emotional candlelight of a summer night.’
      • ‘Although phrased in diplomatic language, this was a clear warning to China not to seek to retake Taiwan by force.’
      • ‘This power of legal language is that to which we refer when we call upon the state to effect the regulation of offensive speech.’
      • ‘Legal theorists are generally interested in legal language and the legal subject.’
      • ‘Despite its boiler-plate legal language, this was anything but a routine land transfer.’
      • ‘Nothing bothers me more than to hear lawyers using legal language to intimidate and get their way.’
      • ‘The revolutionary character of this edict was partially masked by the formal legal language in which it was couched.’
      • ‘Also, they will tend to be drawn up in less precise legal language.’
      • ‘If the member knows anything about legal language, that is not the same thing exactly as saying that we own it.’
      • ‘The serpentine syntax of legal language is often used to obfuscate meaning and confuse those outside the law.’
      • ‘Legal language, however, cannot remain silent in the face of unspeakable injuries.’
      wording, diction, phrasing, phraseology, style, vocabulary, terminology, expressions, turns of phrase, parlance, manner of speaking, manner of writing, way of talking, form of expression, mode of expression, usages, locutions, idiolect, choice of words, rhetoric, oratory
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    2. 3.2Coarse or offensive language.
      ‘the film contains some violence and bad language’
      • ‘‘In daily life bad language and blasphemy is constant and this just encourages it,’ he said.’
      • ‘A strict control of blasphemy and bad language and other offensive things was maintained.’
      • ‘It's also an utterly facile argument that successful competition is somehow linked to the freedom to use foul language, as you suggest.’
      • ‘Each is an epic journey of passion, honour and dishonour, rooted in the pages of Greek mythology, with strong language and violence.’
      • ‘I can appreciate that a child can be too young too see such sexual content, bad language and violence but if a parent feels otherwise they should decide.’
      • ‘It's a world that I know nothing about, a world of sex, violence and bad language, so Mercy's behaviour really must reflect this world.’
      • ‘This is a notice to the consumer that the identified recording may contain strong language or depictions of violence, sex or substance abuse.’
      • ‘I have my hell-in-a-handbasket moments, but they're not about sex or bad language or violence.’
      • ‘I recently remonstrated with two of them throwing crisps at each other and then the bag thrown on the ground and received a torrent of abusive foul language.’
      • ‘Caution: this article contains strong language and may be offensive to some readers.’
      • ‘They are up to speed in this enlightened world in praising the dramatisation of the sub culture with the abundance of obscenity and foul language.’
      • ‘After all, not only is the movie about a biblical character, it is also void of sex, violence, and bad language.’
      • ‘He told the packed court that none of the incidents had been accompanied by aggressive behaviour, bad language or threats of violence.’
      • ‘Perhaps it is just offended by violence and bad language.’
      • ‘I was curious after someone suggested that foul language would keep away readers.’
      • ‘It does contain blood-spattered violence, foul language and graphic sex scenes, but they are all performed by puppets.’
      • ‘You can validate selected results, save your search history, and filter out pornography or foul language.’
      • ‘This week money doesn't just talk, it swears - in bad language and a very loud voice.’
      • ‘Profanity, vulgarity, bad language and all such other improprieties of speech were things that just might cause him to all but faint.’
      • ‘Residents complained the young people were using foul language, being abusive and playing ball games in the street into the early hours of the morning.’


  • speak the same language

    • Understand one another as a result of shared opinions or values.

      ‘when it comes to business, we both speak the same language’
      • ‘The JNIR speaks the same language as the media buyers, and it makes people understand the medium.’
      • ‘We spoke the same language, and he didn't stare blankly when I asked him a question about a topic like libel.’
      • ‘Those guys were all schooled jazz musicians; we all spoke the same language.’
      • ‘We recruited people who spoke the same language as our customers in the retail trade and the business blossomed.’
      • ‘And they are pitching to network executives who come from largely the same world and they're all kind of speaking the same language.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Both Berlin and Paris spoke the same language - that of encouraging private enterprise and reforming social welfare systems, of changing the balance between private and public sectors.’
      • ‘Even if everyone speaks the same language on a project, the departments involved assume and understand things differently from their own unique perspective.’
      • ‘The challenge, therefore, is to get both sides speaking the same language, so that communication and partnership will flow more easily.’
      • ‘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.’


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