Definition of signify in US English:



  • 1with object Be an indication of.

    ‘this decision signified a fundamental change in their priorities’
    • ‘Subsequent analyses of the extinction episodes have convinced most experts that the average time between catastrophes varies too greatly to signify anything truly periodic.’
    • ‘Fallon insisted, though, the decision does not signify a failure of the company's strategy to attract developers.’
    • ‘On a spiritual level, I think ending one's own life signifies a fundamental misunderstanding of life's purpose.’
    • ‘There were a few fallen trees in the roads and puddles; nothing else signified the terrible storm from the night.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, it was a smile that held no weight, for it signified a thought contradictory to its purpose.’
    • ‘It had the Red Tractor symbol signifying it was produced to farm assured standards in the UK.’
    • ‘Rudy Cardenas's brother kissed the stairs of the courthouse, I think signifying that justice had been served.’
    • ‘There are also cross-references, and a star symbol signifies that a particular site has been singled out by the editors for its special beauty, atmosphere or cultural interest.’
    • ‘The fact that Evelyn is female doesn't, to me, signify anything more to me than what her gender is.’
    • ‘Carefully check, too, for any rashes or flaky skin on the scalp - which could signify anything from scalp ringworm to dermatitis.’
    • ‘On the other hand, it is not supposed to signify anything more than that; it is not a statement on whether the price that the products fetch in the market and the quantity that the firm sells are acceptable.’
    • ‘Although nothing much is known about Tshongolo, the fact that he is Western Cape's middleweight champion and is rated number six in the country, signifies his boxing ability.’
    • ‘Lately she'd sighed an awful lot, that troubled sigh that signifies the strain of carrying a secret burden.’
    • ‘Thus, for both mitochondrial and chloroplastidial DNA, a ratio of mean standardized distances exceeding unity signifies a higher paternal rate.’
    • ‘But if the Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2000, why should their defeat this year signify anything?’
    • ‘Frank Laffey, Teagasc National Farm Safety Specialist and chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership Group, said the figures signify the continuing tragedy of death and injury on our farms.’
    • ‘Having character - as distinguished from having specified character traits - signifies a more fundamental moral determination of self than do the virtues.’
    • ‘He scuffed his feet against the wood floor tauntingly, shifting his weight around rapidly as if to signify a first move.’
    • ‘If anything signifies the overseas success of South Korean cinema, it's that Hollywood has finally sat up and taken notice.’
    • ‘It makes it an offence to wear in any public place or at any public meeting a uniform signifying association with any political organisation or with the promotion of any political object.’
    be evidence of, be a sign of, mark, signal, mean, spell, add up to, amount to, denote, be symptomatic of, be a symptom of, reveal, manifest, designate
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    1. 1.1 Be a symbol of; have as meaning.
      ‘the church used this image to signify the Holy Trinity’
      • ‘Frank Griswold and the Trinity Institute have used the image to signify both our rootedness in tradition and our innovation within it.’
      • ‘Mandala, Sanskrit for ‘circle’, is a coloured sand circle, and an old and universal symbol that signifies peace.’
      • ‘The garments were made from pieces of material donated by each family signifying some sentimental value to a member of the family, living or deceased.’
      • ‘The mirror image signifies a real threat to social relations in this play as the body looks only upon itself and does not make links with the bodies which surround it.’
      • ‘He holds a garland of morning glories, a personal emblem signifying affection and awakening, while leaves and acorns from the scrub oak of the land are a sign of courage and independence.’
      • ‘On one side of the tablet are many individual entries of numbers accompanied by pictorial symbols, probably signifying the objects being counted or the names of persons.’
      • ‘Everybody from small children to old people recognises that a red man signifies danger when crossing a road.’
      • ‘Hockey is used, in its symbolic form, to signify national unity and a national sense of purpose and community.’
      • ‘Directly in front of Julius were the uniform and the weapons of the deceased General Brice, symbolically placed to signify the end of the war.’
      • ‘The stone-built wall at the rooftop patio has the shape of five rays signifying the five elements.’
      • ‘It might seem surprising to some that a singer/actor born and bred in Tacoma, Washington, might function symbolically to signify the South.’
      • ‘The image of the plough signifies the end of the pioneer era and the end of their adolescence.’
      • ‘Not that symbols signifying vowels don't exist; they were invented some time ago.’
      • ‘In addition to signifying sagehood and wilderness travel, the staff also carries meaning as a potent tool in Daoist lore, where it plays various roles to assist the adept's escape from the earthly world.’
      • ‘It's a West African symbol that signifies the importance of learning from the past.’
      • ‘He was dressed in magnificent robes, the edges of which were marked with various symbols and designs, all signifying royalty.’
      • ‘I will adorn my face and arms with day-glo flowers and whatever other groovy symbols signify the sixties.’
      • ‘Other inscribed symbols on the slates are a star-like design that she believes means unity and a flower image that may signify two men loving the same woman.’
      • ‘The title of student does not signify an individual with fewer capabilities or less commitment.’
      • ‘Briefly, this symbol signifies a harmonic connection between two notes in a melody.’
      mean, denote, designate, represent, symbolize, stand for, correspond to, be equivalent to, imply
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    2. 1.2 (of a person) indicate or declare (a feeling or intention)
      ‘signify your agreement by signing the letter below’
      • ‘Noel Higgins on Tuam is in charge of the group but to date he has not signified his intention if he is taking part or not.’
      • ‘If the defendant signifies an intention to plead not guilty, proceedings to determine the mode of trial are held before magistrates.’
      • ‘This appears to be part of an ongoing process of a change of heart by the signatories of the central Bank Gold Agreement, signifying a desire to retain the gold they have in their reserves.’
      • ‘They have signified their intentions for next season already, out of swollen eyes and dejected hearts.’
      • ‘The fact that it was not deliberately publicised does not, I believe, signify an intention to cover it up.’
      • ‘Continuing, he signified his party's intention to vote against any estimate that includes them.’
      • ‘It seems that the responses do not necessarily signify the intention either to remain in or to move to another province, but they do give an indication of public perceptions and sentiment about other parts of South Africa.’
      • ‘He also deplored the slowness of the courts where judgements were awaited for a year or more and he signified his intention to express his dissatisfaction to the Minister for Justice.’
      • ‘By clicking on this link you are signifying your agreement with our board policy, so please take the time to read it.’
      • ‘The Waterford publicans, who have signified their intention to defy the ban, are following in the footsteps of their colleagues in Kerry, Cork, Donegal and Wexford.’
      • ‘At the moment there are twenty people who have signified their intention to travel.’
      • ‘The Referees Committee was formed at a meeting attended by 17 referees with three excused, but to date there are still two referees who have not answered the call, or indeed, signified their intentions, one way or another.’
      • ‘There are a number of high profile people who have already signified their intention to take part and support the venture and they include Pauleen McLynn and Tommie Tiernan.’
      • ‘Most sinister of all is Pablo's ultimatum to you signifying his intention to move in and help the revisionist minority overthrow the majority in your party.’
      • ‘So far twelve candidates have signified their intention to enter the fray here, but by the close of nominations it is likely there will be at least one more contender aiming to woo the 70,000-plus electorate.’
      express, indicate, show, communicate, intimate
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    3. 1.3no object, with negative Be of importance.
      ‘the locked door doesn't necessarily signify’
      • ‘CFDs allow investors to own shares at a percentage of the actual cost of ownership, but do not necessarily signify for voting purposes.’
      • ‘We know by now that these fateful peculiarities, right after the credits, need not necessarily signify.’
      mean anything, mean something, be of importance, be of consequence, be important, be significant, be of significance, carry weight, be of account, count, matter, be relevant
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  • 2US informal no object (among black Americans) exchange boasts or insults as a game or ritual.


Middle English: from Old French signifier, from Latin significare ‘indicate, portend’, from signum ‘token’.