Meaning of LANGUAGE in English

lan ‧ guage S1 W1 /ˈlæŋɡwɪdʒ/ BrE AmE noun

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: langue 'tongue, language' , from Latin lingua ]

1 . ENGLISH/FRENCH/ARABIC ETC [uncountable and countable] a system of communication by written or spoken words, which is used by the people of a particular country or area:

How many languages do you speak?

one of the best-known poems in the English language

2 . COMMUNICATION [uncountable] the use of written or spoken words to communicate:

the origins of language

3 . STYLE/TYPE OF WORDS [uncountable] a particular style or type of words

legal/medical/technical etc language

The letter was written in complicated legal language.

spoken/written language

The expression is mainly used in written language.

ordinary/everyday language

He is able to explain complicated ideas in simple everyday language.

literary/poetic language

The plays are full of old-fashioned poetic language.

language of

the language of science

4 . SWEARING [uncountable] informal words that most people think are offensive

mind/watch your language spoken (=stop swearing)

bad/foul/abusive language

5 . strong language

a) angry words used to tell people exactly what you mean

b) words that most people think are offensive SYN swearing

6 . COMPUTERS [uncountable and countable] technical a system of instructions for operating a computer:

a programming language for the web

7 . SIGNS/ACTIONS/SOUNDS [uncountable and countable] signs, movements, or sounds that express ideas or feelings

language of

the language of bees

the language of dolphins

⇨ ↑ body language , ↑ sign language , ⇨ speak the same language at ↑ speak (11)

• • •


■ verbs

▪ speak a language

Can you speak a foreign language?

▪ use a language

The children use their native language at home.

▪ learn a language

Immigrants are expected to learn the language of their new country.

▪ master a language (=succeed in learning a language well)

She had had a long struggle to master the Russian language.

▪ know a language

He had lived in Japan, but did not know the language.

■ ADJECTIVES/NOUN + language

▪ a foreign language

He found learning a foreign language extremely difficult.

▪ the English/Japanese/Spanish etc language

She had some knowledge of the Spanish language.

▪ sb’s first/native language (=the language someone first learned as a child)

His first language was Polish.

▪ a second language (=a language you speak that is not your first language)

Most of the students learned English as their second language.

▪ modern languages (=languages that are spoken now)

The school has a good modern languages department.

▪ a dead language (=a language that is no longer spoken)

She didn’t see the point of learning a dead language.

▪ an official language (=the language used for official business in a country)

Canada has two official languages: English and French.

▪ a common language (=a language that more than one person or group speaks, so that they can understand each other)

Most of the countries of South America share a common language: Spanish.

■ language + NOUN

▪ the language barrier (=the problem of communicating with someone when you do not speak the same language)

Because of the language barrier, it was hard for doctors to give good advice to patients.

▪ a language student/learner

Language learners often have problems with tenses.

▪ a language teacher

a book for language teachers

▪ language teaching

recent developments in language teaching

■ phrases

▪ sb’s command of a language (=someone’s ability to speak a language)

Does he have a good command of the language?

• • •


■ different kinds of language

▪ dialect a form of a language that is spoken in one area of a country, with different words, grammar, or pronunciation from other areas:

Cantonese is only one of many Chinese dialects.


the local dialect

▪ accent the way that someone pronounces words, because of where they were born or live, or their social class:

Karen has a strong New Jersey accent.


an upper class accent

▪ slang very informal spoken language, used especially by people who belong to a particular group, for example young people or criminals:

Teenage slang changes all the time.


‘Dosh’ is slang for ‘money’.

▪ terminology formal the technical words or expressions that are used in a particular subject:

musical terminology


Patients are often unfamiliar with medical terminology.

▪ jargon especially disapproving words and phrases used in a particular profession or subject and which are difficult for other people to understand:

The instructions were written in complicated technical jargon.


‘Outsourcing’ is business jargon for sending work to people outside a company to do.


The letter was full of legal jargon.

■ techniques used in language

▪ metaphor a way of describing something by referring to it as something different and suggesting that it has similar qualities to that thing:

The beehive is a metaphor for human society.

▪ simile an expression that describes something by comparing it with something else, using the words as or like , for example ‘as white as snow’:

The poet uses the simile ‘soft like clay’.

▪ irony the use of words that are the opposite of what you really mean, often in order to be amusing:

‘I’m so happy to hear that,’ he said, with more than a trace of irony in his voice.

▪ bathos a sudden change from a subject that is beautiful, moral, or serious to something that is ordinary, silly, or not important:

The play is too sentimental and full of bathos.

▪ hyperbole a way of describing something by saying that it is much bigger, smaller, worse etc than it actually is – used especially to excite people’s feelings:

In his speeches, he used a lot of hyperbole.


journalistic hyperbole

▪ alliteration the use of several words together that all begin with the same sound, in order to make a special effect, especially in poetry:

the alliteration of the ‘s’ sound in ‘sweet birds sang softly’

▪ imagery the use of words to describe ideas or actions in a way that makes the reader connect the ideas with pictures in their mind:

the use of water imagery in Fitzgerald’s novel ‘The Great Gatsby’


She uses the imagery of a bird’s song to represent eternal hope.

▪ rhetorical question a question that you ask as a way of making a statement, without expecting an answer:

When he said ‘how can these attitudes still exist in a civilized society?’, he was asking a rhetorical question.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.