Meaning of LANGUAGE in English


1. the words used by the people in a particular country or area

2. the use of words to communicate

3. the first language that you learn as a child

4. when someone can speak more than one language

5. the language used by a particular group of people


see also






1. the words used by the people in a particular country or area

▷ language /ˈlæŋgwɪdʒ/ [countable noun]

a system of words, phrases, and grammar that is used by the people who live in a particular country :

speak a language

▪ ‘What language do they speak in Brazil?’ ‘Portuguese.’

▪ She can speak four different languages - French, German, English, and Dutch.

foreign language

▪ Every pupil has to learn at least one foreign language.

official language

the language used by the government

▪ English is the island’s official language, but people also speak French and Creole.

speak the language

be able to speak the language of the country you are in

▪ It’s difficult living in a country where you don’t speak the language.

▷ lingo /ˈlɪŋgəʊ/ [singular noun] informal

a foreign language :

speak/know the lingo

▪ Travelling in Spain is much easier if you can speak the lingo.

learn/pick up the lingo

▪ He picked up the local lingo straight away.

▷ dialect /ˈdaɪəlekt/ [countable/uncountable noun]

a form of a language which is spoken by the people who live in one area of a country, and which has different words, grammar, or pronunciation from other forms of that language :

▪ In this region, the dialect sounds a lot like German.

▪ At home, they speak in dialect.

Yorkshire/German/Cantonese etc dialect

▪ In some Yorkshire dialects, people say ‘spice’ instead of ‘sweets’ or ‘candy’.

dialect word

▪ ‘Nowt’ is a northern dialect word meaning ‘nothing’.

dialect of

▪ He spoke a dialect of French that I found hard to understand.

▷ slang /slæŋ/ [uncountable noun]

very informal words used in a particular country or place :

▪ I was totally confused by the slang that the other kids were using.

slang for

▪ ‘Bladdered’ is slang for ‘drunk’.

slang word/term/expression

▪ ‘Shepherd’ was a slang term for a spy.

US/British/Southern etc slang

▪ ‘Baloney’ is US slang for nonsense.

▷ colloquial /kəˈləʊkwiəl/ [adjective]

language that is colloquial is only used in conversation, not in formal situations :

▪ It’s a useful little phrase book, full of colloquial expressions.

▪ The best way of improving your colloquial English is by listening to native speakers.

▪ You shouldn’t use phrases like ‘sort of’ in essays -- they’re too colloquial.

2. the use of words to communicate

▷ language /ˈlæŋgwɪdʒ/ [uncountable noun]

the use of words, grammar etc to communicate with other people :

▪ Every child develops the natural ability to use language.

▪ There are ways of communicating without language.

▷ linguistic /lɪŋˈgwɪstɪk/ [adjective usually before noun]

connected with people’s ability to use language :

linguistic ability/skills/development etc

▪ Hearing difficulties can slow down a child’s linguistic development.

▪ It is difficult to obtain accurate information on which to base an assessment of a child’s linguistic abilities.

3. the first language that you learn as a child

▷ somebody’s first language / somebodyˈs ˌfɜːʳst ˈlæŋgwɪdʒ/ [countable noun]

the first language you learn as a child - use this when you are comparing someone’s first language with other languages that they learn later :

▪ My first language is Dutch.

▪ My daughter has several classmates whose first language is Bengali.

▷ somebody’s mother tongue / somebodyˈs ˈmʌðəʳ ˌtʌŋ/ [countable noun]

the first language you learn as a child - use this especially to talk about someone who now lives in a country where a different language is spoken :

▪ We run classes for students whose mother tongue is not English.

▷ native speaker /ˌneɪtɪv ˈspiːkəʳ/ [countable noun]

a native speaker of a language is someone who learned that language first as a child :

▪ The book is aimed at learners of English rather than native speakers.

native speaker of

▪ There has been an assumption in the past that anyone who is a native speaker of English is equipped to teach English.

4. when someone can speak more than one language

▷ bilingual /baɪˈlɪŋgwəl/ [adjective]

someone who is bilingual can speak two languages perfectly :

▪ I’m bilingual - my mother was French.

▪ Many of the pupils are bilingual in Welsh and English.

▷ somebody’s second language / somebodyˈs ˌsekənd ˈlæŋgwɪdʒ/ [countable noun]

your second language is a language that you speak well and often use, but not the first language that you learned as a child :

▪ Halima was born in Kenya. Her first language is Swahili, and her second language is English.

5. the language used by a particular group of people

▷ language /ˈlæŋgwɪdʒ/ [uncountable noun]

the kind of words used by people in a particular job or activity :

legal/medical/business etc language

▪ Books about physics are usually written in highly technical language.

▪ People often find the medical language used by doctors confusing.

the language of something

▪ a fascinating article about the language of baseball

▷ terminology /ˌtɜːʳmɪˈnɒlədʒi, ˌtɜːʳməˈnɒlədʒiǁ-ˈnɑː-/ [uncountable noun]

the special words that people working in science, medicine, the law etc use to describe things :

▪ It is important that lawyers use the correct terminology when they prepare contracts.

scientific/linguistic/computer etc terminology

▪ It was an interesting programme, which gave the facts without using too much scientific terminology.

▷ jargon /ˈdʒɑːʳgənǁ-gən, -gɑːn/ [uncountable noun]

words used by people who do a particular job or who are interested in a particular subject, which are difficult for ordinary people to understand :

▪ When you first learn about computers, there is a whole lot of jargon to understand.

management/legal/medical/computer jargon

▪ I hate all this management jargon about ‘upskilling’ and ‘downsizing’.

▷ slang /slæŋ/ [uncountable noun]

informal words that are used by specific groups of people, for example soldiers or prisoners :

army/soldiers’/prison etc slang

▪ ‘Doolally’, meaning ‘crazy’, is 19th century soldiers’ slang, and comes from the name of an Indian town.

▷ in layman’s terms /ɪn ˈleɪmənz tɜːʳmz/ [adverb]

not using special, technical words that are hard to understand :

▪ I want a book that will explain to me in layman’s terms how my computer works.

▷ -speak /-spiːk/ []

management/boardroom/PR etc -speak

a type of language and the words used by managers etc - use this especially to talk about a way of speaking that you think is silly or unnecessarily different from normal language :

▪ ‘What on earth does he mean, ‘window’?’ ‘Oh, that’s management-speak for ‘opportunity’.’

▪ Her email was so full of corporate-speak, you hardly realized that what she was saying was that we were all fired.

Longman Activator English vocab.      Английский словарь Longman активатор .