Meaning of SIGN in English


I. ˈsīn noun

( -s ; see sense 10b )

Etymology: Middle English signe, from Old French, from Latin signum sign, mark, figure, image; perhaps akin to Latin secare to cut — more at saw


a. : a motion, gesture, or bodily action by which a thought is expressed or a command or a wish is made known

b. : signal 3a

c. : a unit of language (as a word) that means, stands for, designates, or denotes something to an interpreter — compare icon , index , symbol

d. : one of the members of a methodical set of gestures used to represent language directly word by word or letter by letter — compare dactylology


a. : a conventional mark or device having a recognized particular meaning and used in place of words

b. : an ideographic mark, figure, or picture conventionally used in writing or printing to represent a usually technical term or conception

brackets are frequently used in bibliographical work as a sign of inference — Fredson Bowers

c. : a character standing for a number or a contraction in braille or other system of writing for the blind

3. : one of the 12 divisions of the zodiac that are marked by the positions of the 12 zodiacal constellations beginning at the point of intersection of the ecliptic and the equator and reckoning eastward each being now because of the precession of the equinoxes displaced 30 degrees to the west of the constellation bearing its name


a. : a character (as a flat, sharp) used in musical notation ; specifically : segno

b. : a character indicating a relation between quantities (as + addition, . equality) or an operation performed (as the radical √, integral ∫, factorial !) ; also : a character that forms part of a representation of a number (as - in -4)

5. archaic

a. : a heraldic or military device (as on a banner or a shield)

b. : standard , banner , ensign

c. signs plural , obsolete : insignia

d. obsolete : an attesting mark (as on a seal)

e. obsolete : effigy , image , imprint


a. : a lettered board or other public display placed on or before a building, room, shop, or office to advertise the business there transacted or the name of the person or firm conducting it

b. : a conspicuously placed word or legend (as on a board or placard) of direction, warning, identification, or other information of general concern

ignoring the Danger Keep Out sign he opened the gate and entered

looking for street signs

c. : signboard


a. : something material or external that stands for or signifies something spiritual — compare sacrament 1

b. : something that serves to indicate the presence or existence of a thing or quality or condition : token

removed their hats as a sign of respect

all the signs point to him as the guilty one

signs of suffering in his drawn face and tightened mouth

c. : presage , portent

signs of an early spring

the wind changed, a sign of coming rain


(1) : an objective evidence of disease especially as observed and interpreted by the physician rather than by the patient or lay observer

narrow retinal vessels are a sign of arteriosclerosis

— contrasted with symptom ; see physical sign

(2) : an indication of disease (as spores of the pathogen, gummy exudate) other than the reaction of the plant itself — contrasted with symptom

8. : a remarkable event believed to indicate the will or power of a deity : miracle , wonder , prodigy , omen

what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them, that ye may know how that I am the Lord — Exod 10:2 (Authorized Version)

9. : a grammatical inflection characteristic of a mood, tense or number

to is traditionally the sign of the infinitive in English

s is the usual plural sign


a. : remaining evidence : vestige — used chiefly in negative construction

no sign of human habitation

not a sign of remorse

not a sound, not a sign of life anywhere

b. plural usually sign : traces (as footprints, droppings) left by a wild animal

we found plenty of bear sign about but never saw a bear

11. obsolete : semblance , pretense


mark , token , badge , note , symptom : sign is a very general term for any indication to be perceived by the senses or reason

the sign of the cross

suicide is a sign of failure, misery, and despair — Havelock Ellis

the signs of her fate in a footprint here, a broken twig there, a trinket dropped by the way — Joseph Conrad

a patient showing signs of improvement

highway signs

mark may more strongly indicate some indication deeply impressed, inherently characteristic, or properly affixed

the bitter experience left its marks on him

the mark of a gentleman

the mark of Cain on their foreheads, which sets them visibly apart from the rest of humanity before they have committed their crime — H.J.Morgenthau

a flood's marks

making his mark on the paper

token may refer to a sign expressive of something intangible

he wears a silver ring on his ankle as a token of his dignity — J.G.Frazer

marriage if you do not regard it as a sacrament — as no doubt it ought to be regarded — was nothing more than a token that a couple intended to stick to each other — F.M.Ford

badge designates a distinctive emblem or an accoutrement or a characteristic serving as an emblem to indicate a belonging or being part of

a policeman's badge

to wear a leopard's skin (the badge of royalty) — J.G.Frazer

the diplomat wearing his badge of office, the Homburg hat — Tom Siler

essentially we were taught to regard culture as a veneer, a badge of class distinction — Malcolm Cowley

note may indicate any distinguishing mark; it may suggest something that seems to emanate from a thing as an indication of its true, inherent nature

tolerance, moderation, and pity are the abiding notes which help to keep Chaucer's poetry level with life — H.S.Bennett

the genteel poverty which was the note of his grandfather's house — Archibald Marshall

symptom may indicate a sign of some change, new development or old condition not thoroughly perceived

the symptoms of disease

the decadence of the walls was a symptom of the decline of that intense civic patriotism which had inspired medieval townsfolk — G.M.Trevelyan

every symptom of being hopelessly in love — W.S.Gilbert

Synonym: see in addition character .

- at the sign of

II. verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English signen, from Middle French signer, from Latin signare to mark, seal, from signum sign, mark, figure, image — more at sign I

transitive verb


a. : to place a sign upon : consecrate, bless, or mark especially with the sign of the cross

b. : cross 3a

c. : to represent or indicate by a sign


a. : to affix a signature to : ratify or attest by hand or seal

sign a legislative bill into law

: subscribe in one's own handwriting

confession was typed out and read to the prisoner, who then signed it

b. : to write down (one's name)

signed his name with a flourish

c. : to identify (a printed signature) with a symbol at the bottom of the first page


a. : to assign or convey formally

signed away his rights in the invention

signed over the property to his brother

b. : to accept as a professional obligation : agree to perform or carry out

signed to direct two plays for the newly formed company

4. : to communicate by making a sign

signed that he was ready to leave, glancing toward the door

: signify or express in signs or a sign language

5. : to engage or hire by securing the signature of

signed to act in a movie

the club has signed two new pitchers

6. : to place signs on or along

sign a street

sign a highway intersection

intransitive verb

1. : to write one's name especially as a token of assent, responsibility, or obligation

2. : to make a sign or signal : communicate or converse by signs or a sign language

3. obsolete : to be an omen or portent : bode

music in the air … it signs well, does it not — Shakespeare

4. : to place signs (as along a highway)

III. noun

: sign language

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.