AskDefine | Define sign

Dictionary Definition

sign adj : used of the language of the deaf [syn: gestural, sign(a), signed, sign-language(a)]


1 a perceptible indication of something not immediately apparent (as a visible clue that something has happened); "he showed signs of strain"; "they welcomed the signs of spring" [syn: mark]
2 a public display of a (usually written) message; "he posted signs in all the shop windows"
3 any communication that encodes a message; "signals from the boat suddenly stopped" [syn: signal, signaling]
4 structure displaying a board on which advertisements can be posted; "the highway was lined with signboards" [syn: signboard]
5 (astrology) one of 12 equal areas into which the zodiac is divided [syn: sign of the zodiac, star sign, mansion, house, planetary house]
6 (medicine) any objective evidence of the presence of a disorder or disease; "there were no signs of asphixiation"
7 having an indicated pole (as the distinction between positive and negative electric charges); "he got the polarity of the battery reversed"; "charges of opposite sign" [syn: polarity]
8 an event that is experienced as indicating important things to come; "he hoped it was an augury"; "it was a sign from God" [syn: augury, foretoken, preindication]
9 a gesture that is part of a sign language
10 a fundamental linguistic unit linking a signifier to that which is signified; "The bond between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary"--de Saussure
11 a character indicating a relation between quantities; "don't forget the minus sign"


1 mark with one's signature; write one's name (on); "She signed the letter and sent it off"; "Please sign here" [syn: subscribe]
2 approve and express assent, responsibility, or obligation; "All parties ratified the peace treaty"; "Have you signed your contract yet?" [syn: ratify]
3 be engaged by a written agreement; "He signed to play the casino on Dec. 18"; "The soprano signed to sing the new opera"
4 engage by written agreement; "They signed two new pitchers for the next season" [syn: contract, sign on, sign up]
5 communicate silently and non-verbally by signals or signs; "He signed his disapproval with a dismissive hand gesture"; "The diner signaled the waiters to bring the menu" [syn: signal, signalize, signalise]
6 place signs, as along a road; "sign an intersection"; "This road has been signed"
7 communicate in sign language; "I don't know how to sign, so I could not communicate with my deaf cousin"
8 make the sign of the cross over someone in order to call on God for protection; consecrate [syn: bless]

User Contributed Dictionary




Etymology 1

From signe, from signum, sign.


  1. (sometimes also used uncountably) A visible indication.
    Their angry expressions were a clear sign they didn't want to talk.
    Those clouds show signs of raining soon.
    Those clouds show little sign of raining soon.
  2. A clearly visible object, generally flat, bearing a short message in words or pictures.
    The sign in the window said "for rent".
  3. A traffic sign.
    I missed the sign at the corner so I took the wrong turn.
  4. A meaningful gesture.
    I gave them a thumbs-up sign.
  5. Any of several specialized non-alphabetic symbols.
    The sharp sign indicates that the pitch of the note is raised a half step.
  6. An astrological sign.
    Your sign is Taurus? That's no surprise.
  7. Positive or negative polarity.
    I got the magnitude right, but the sign was wrong.
  8. A linguistic unit in sign language equivalent to word in spoken languages.
    What's the sign for "computer"?
  9. sign language in general
    Sorry, I don't know sign very well.
  10. An omen.
    "It's a sign of the end of the world," the doom prophet said.
A visible indication
A clearly visible object
A traffic sign
A meaningful gesture
Any of several specialized non-alphabetic symbols
An astrological sign
Positive or negative polarity
A linguistic unit in sign language
sign language in general
An omen

Etymology 2

From signer, from signare.


  1. To write one's signature on (a document), thus showing authorship.
    I forgot to sign that letter to my aunt.
  2. To give legal consent by writing one's signature.
    I'm not signing anything without my lawyer present.
  3. To persuade to sign a contract.
    It was a great month. I managed to sign three major players.
  4. To write one's signature somewhere.
    Please sign on the dotted line.
  5. To give autographs.
    I'm sorry, I don't sign.
  6. To communicate using sign language.
    I'm learning to sign so I can talk to my new neighbor.
to write one's signature on a document
to give legal consent by writing one's signature
to persuade to sign a contract.
to write one's signature somewhere
to give autographs
to communicate using sign language

Extensive Definition

A sign is an entity which signifies another entity. A natural sign is an entity which bears a causal relation to the signified entity, as thunder is a sign of storm. A conventional sign signifies by agreement, as a full stop signifies the end of a sentence. (Contrast a symbol which stands for another thing, as a flag may be a symbol of a nation)
The way in which a sign signifies is a topic in philosophy of language, see also Meaning (linguistic).
Any given signifier or symbol is dependent upon that which is intended, expressed, or signified in a semiotic relationship of signification, significance, meaning, or import. Thus, for example, people may speak of the significance of events, the signification of characters, the meaning of sentences, or the import of a communication. These different relationships that exist between sorts of signs can help people and sorts of things that are signified can be called the modes of signification.
The range of uses of signs are varied. They might include: the indication or mark of something, a display of a message, a signal to draw attention, evidence of an underlying cause (for instance, the symptoms of a disease are signs of the disease), a character for a mathematical operation, a body gesture, etc.

Nature of signs

Semiotics, epistemology, logic, and philosophy of language are concerned about the nature of signs, what they are and how they signify. The nature of signs and symbols and significations, their definition, elements, and types, is mainly established by Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. According to these classic sources, significance is a relationship between two sorts of things: signs and the kinds of things they signify (intend, express or mean), where one term necessarily causes something else to come to the mind. Distinguishing natural signs and conventional signs, the traditional theory of signs sets the following threefold partition of things:
  1. There are things that are just things, not any sign at all;
  2. There are things that are also signs of other things (as natural signs of the physical world and mental signs of the mind);
  3. There are things that are always signs, as languages (natural and artificial) and other cultural nonverbal symbols, as documents, money, ceremonies, and rites.
Thus there are things which may act as signs without any respect to the human agent (the things of the external world, all sorts of indications, evidences, symptoms, and physical signals), there are signs which are always signs (the entities of the mind as ideas and images, thoughts and feelings, constructs and intentions); and there are signs that have to get their signification (as linguistic entities and cultural symbols). So, while natural signs serve as the source of signification, the human mind is the agency through which signs signify naturally occurring things, such as objects, states, qualities, quantities, events, processes, or relationships. Human language and discourse, communication, philosophy, science, logic, mathematics, poetry, theology, and religion are only some of fields of human study and activity where grasping the nature of signs and symbols and patterns of signification may have a decisive value.

Types of signs

A sign can denote any of the following:
sign in Czech: Znak
sign in Danish: Tegn
sign in German: Zeichen (Begriffsklärung)
sign in Spanish: Signo
sign in Estonian: Märk
sign in Esperanto: Signo
sign in French: Signe
sign in Croatian: Znak
sign in Ido: Signo
sign in Lithuanian: Ženklas
sign in Dutch: Sein
sign in Japanese: 記号
sign in Polish: Znak
sign in Portuguese: Signo
sign in Russian: Знак
sign in Simple English: Sign
sign in Slovenian: Znak
sign in Finnish: Merkki
sign in Swedish: Tecken
sign in Chinese: 表意文字
sign in Yiddish: צייכן

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

OK, Roman candle, abandon, abnormality, accent, accent mark, accept, accredit, acute disease, adumbration, advertisement, affection, affirm, affliction, agent, agree on terms, aid to navigation, ailment, alarm, allergic disease, allergy, alphabet, alphabetic character, alphabetize, alternate, alternative, amber light, amen, analogy, announcement, approve, assign, assure, atrophy, attest, attestation, augury, auspice, authenticate, authorize, autograph, back, backup, bacterial disease, badge, balefire, banner, bar, basis for belief, be sponsor for, beacon, beacon fire, beat the drum, bell, bell buoy, betokening, betokenment, binary digit, birth defect, bit, blight, blinker, blue peter, body of evidence, bond, brand, broad hint, broadside, buoy, cancel, capitalize, cardiovascular disease, cartouche, caution light, certify, chain of evidence, change, changeling, character, characteristic, chronic disease, cipher, circulatory disease, close down, clue, colophon, comparison, complaint, complication, condensation trail, condition, confirm, congenital defect, consign, contract, contrail, copy, cosign, counterfeit, countersecure, countersign, course, cue, custos, cypher, data, datum, defect, deficiency disease, deformity, degenerative disease, deliver, deputy, device, differentia, digit, dip, direct, disability, disease, disorder, dispose of, distemper, documentation, donate, dot, double, dummy, earmark, emblem, employ, enchantment, endemic, endemic disease, endocrine disease, endorse, engage, enlist, ensign, ensure, epidemic disease, equal, equivalent, ersatz, evidence, exchange, exchange colors, exhibit, exponent, expression mark, fact, facts, fake, fantasy, fermata, figure, fill-in, flag, flag down, flare, flash, fog bell, fog signal, fog whistle, foghorn, foreboding, foreshadow, foreshadowing, foreshowing, foretoken, foretokening, forewarning, forgo, formalize, functional disease, fungus disease, gastrointestinal disease, genetic disease, gentle hint, gesticulation, gesture, get rid of, ghost, ghostwriter, give, give a signal, give permission, give the go-ahead, give the imprimatur, give the nod, give thumbs up, give up, glance, glimmer, glimmering, glosseme, go light, gong buoy, graph, grapheme, green light, grounds, grounds for belief, guarantee, guaranty, hail, hail and speak, half-mast, hallmark, handicap, heliograph, hereditary disease, hieroglyph, high sign, hint, hire, hoist a banner, hold, iatrogenic disease, icon, ideogram, ideograph, idiosyncrasy, illness, image, imitation, implication, index, indicant, indication, indicator, indisposition, infectious disease, infirmity, initial, initials, ink, inkling, innuendo, inscribe, insignia, insinuation, insure, international alphabet flag, international numeral pennant, intimation, item of evidence, join up, key signature, keynote, kick, lead, leer, letter, lexeme, lexical form, lexigraphic character, ligature, line, locum tenens, logotype, look, make a sign, make over, makeshift, malady, malaise, manifestation, mark, marker beacon, material grounds, measure, metaphor, metonymy, metronomic mark, miracle, monogram, morbidity, morbus, morpheme, motion, movement, muniments, muscular disease, mute witness, neurological disease, next best thing, nod, notarize, notation, note, notice, nudge, number, numeral, numero, nutritional disease, occupational disease, omen, organic disease, pandemic disease, parachute flare, pass, pass on, pass upon, path, pathological condition, pathology, pause, peculiarity, permit, personnel, phonetic character, phonetic symbol, phony, phrase, pictographic character, picture, piece of evidence, pilot flag, pinch hitter, piste, placard, plant disease, poke, police whistle, portent, poster, prefiguration, preindication, premises, premonitory shiver, premonitory sign, premonitory symptom, presa, present, presignifying, prodigy, prognosis, prognostic, prognostication, promise, prompt, proof, property, prophecy, protozoan disease, proxy, psychosomatic disease, quarantine flag, radio beacon, raise a cry, ratify, reason to believe, rebus, red flag, red light, register, release, relevant fact, relief, relinquish, reminder, replacement, representation, representative, reserves, respiratory disease, retain, ringer, rocket, rockiness, rubber stamp, sacrifice, sailing aid, salute, sanction, say amen to, scent, seal, second, second string, secondary, secondary disease, secure, seediness, segno, semaphore, semaphore flag, semaphore telegraph, semasiological unit, sememe, shadow, shake hands, shingle, show, sickishness, sickness, sigil, sign and seal, sign away, sign for, sign off, sign on, sign over, sign up, sign up for, signal, signal beacon, signal bell, signal fire, signal flag, signal gong, signal gun, signal lamp, signal light, signal mast, signal post, signal rocket, signal shot, signal siren, signal tower, signalize, signature, signboard, signifiant, significant, signs, slur, soothsay, sound an alarm, sound the trumpet, spar buoy, spares, speak, sponsor, spoor, stamp, stand behind, stand up for, stand-in, standard, stop light, strike a bargain, sub, subscribe, subscribe to, substituent, substitute, substitution, succedaneum, suggestion, superseder, supplanter, support, sure sign, surrender, surrogate, suspicion, swear and affirm, swear to, swell, syllabic, symbol, symbolization, symptom, symptomatology, symptomology, symptoms, syndrome, synecdoche, take on, telltale, telltale sign, tempo mark, term, the nod, the pip, the wink, third string, tie, time signature, token, tokening, touch, trace, traces, track, traffic light, traffic signal, trail, trait, transcribe, transfer, transliterate, turn over, type, undersign, understudy, underwrite, unfurl a flag, urogenital disease, utility player, validate, vapor trail, vestige, vicar, vice-president, vice-regent, vinculum, virus disease, visa, vise, volunteer, waive, wake, warning, warrant, wasting disease, watch fire, wave, wave a flag, wave the hand, whisper, white flag, wigwag, wigwag flag, wink, witness, wonder, wonderwork, word, worm disease, writing, written character, yellow flag
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