from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To utter words or articulate sounds with ordinary speech modulation; talk.
  • intransitive v. To convey thoughts, opinions, or emotions orally.
  • intransitive v. To express oneself.
  • intransitive v. To be on speaking terms: They are no longer speaking.
  • intransitive v. To deliver an address or lecture: The mayor spoke at the rally.
  • intransitive v. To make a statement in writing: The biography speaks of great loneliness.
  • intransitive v. To act as spokesperson: spoke for the entire staff.
  • intransitive v. To convey a message by nonverbal means: Actions speak louder than words.
  • intransitive v. To be expressive: spoke with her eyes.
  • intransitive v. To be appealing: His poetry speaks to one's heart.
  • intransitive v. To make a reservation or request. Often used with for: Is this dance spoken for? I spoke for the last slice of pizza.
  • intransitive v. To produce a characteristic sound: The drums spoke.
  • intransitive v. To give off a sound on firing. Used of guns or cannon.
  • intransitive v. To make communicative sounds.
  • intransitive v. To give an indication or a suggestion: His manners spoke of good upbringing.
  • transitive v. To articulate in a speaking voice: spoke words of wisdom.
  • transitive v. To converse in or be able to converse in (a language): speaks German.
  • transitive v. To express aloud; tell: speak the truth.
  • transitive v. To express in writing.
  • transitive v. Nautical To hail and communicate with (another vessel) at sea.
  • transitive v. To convey by nonverbal means: His eyes spoke volumes.
  • speak out To talk freely and fearlessly, as about a public issue.
  • speak up To speak loud enough to be audible.
  • speak up To speak without fear or hesitation.
  • idiom so to speak In a manner of speaking: can't see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
  • idiom speak down to To speak condescendingly to: She never spoke down to her audience.
  • idiom to speak of Worthy of mention: There's nothing new to speak of.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To communicate with one's voice, to say words out loud.
  • v. To have a conversation.
  • v. To communicate or converse by some means other than orally, such as writing or facial expressions.
  • v. To deliver a message to a group; to deliver a speech.
  • v. To be able to communicate in a language.
  • v. To utter.
  • v. To communicate (some fact or feeling); to bespeak, to indicate.
  • v. To understand (as though it were a language).
  • n. language, jargon, or terminology used uniquely in a particular environment or group.
  • n. a low class bar, a speakeasy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To utter words or articulate sounds, as human beings; to express thoughts by words.
  • intransitive v. To express opinions; to say; to talk; to converse.
  • intransitive v. To utter a speech, discourse, or harangue; to adress a public assembly formally.
  • intransitive v. To discourse; to make mention; to tell.
  • intransitive v. To give sound; to sound.
  • intransitive v. To convey sentiments, ideas, or intelligence as if by utterance.
  • transitive v. To utter with the mouth; to pronounce; to utter articulately, as human beings.
  • transitive v. To utter in a word or words; to say; to tell; to declare orally.
  • transitive v. To declare; to proclaim; to publish; to make known; to exhibit; to express in any way.
  • transitive v. To talk or converse in; to utter or pronounce, as in conversation.
  • transitive v. To address; to accost; to speak to.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To use articulate utterance in the tones of the speaking-voice, in distinction from those of the singing-voice; exert the faculty of speech in uttering words for the expression of thought.
  • To make an oral address, as before a magistrate, a tribunal, a public assembly, or a company; deliver a speech, discourse, argument, plea, or the like: as, to speak for or against a person or a cause in court or in a legislature.
  • To make oral communication or mention; talk; converse: as, to speak with a stranger; to speak of or about something; they do not speak to each other.
  • To communicate ideas by written or printed words; make mention or tell in recorded speech.
  • To make communication by any intelligible sound, action, or indication; impart ideas or information by any means other than speech or writing; give expression or intimation.
  • Of an organ-pipe, to emit or utter a tone; sound.
  • Nautical, to make a stirring and lapping sound in driving through the water: said of a ship.
  • To bark when ordered: said of dogs.
  • A person with whom one is only sufficiently acquainted to interchange formal salutations or indifferent conversation when meeting casually.
  • To afford an indication of; intimate; denote.
  • To take or make account of; mention as notable or of consequence; deserve mention.
  • To admonish or rebuke.
  • Synonyms Speak, Talk. Speak is more general in meaning than talk. Thus, a man may speak by uttering a single word, whereas to talk is to utter words consecutively; so a man may be able to speak without being able to talk. Speak is also more formal in meaning: as, to speak before an audience; while talk implies a conversational manner of speaking.
  • To utter orally and articulately; express with the voice; enunciate.
  • To declare; utter; make known by speech; tell, announce, or express in uttered words.
  • To use in oral utterance; express one's self in the speech or tongue of: as, a person may read a language which he cannot speak.
  • To accost or address in speech; specifically (nautical), to accost at sea; hail and hold communication with by the voice, as a passing vessel.
  • To say, either in speech or in writing; use as a form of speech.
  • To produce by means or as a result of speech; bring about or into being by utterance; call forth.
  • To mention as; speak of as being; call.
  • To make known as if by speech; give speaking evidence of; indicate; show to be; declare.
  • Synonyms Tell, State, etc. See say.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. use language
  • v. express in speech
  • v. give a speech to
  • v. make a characteristic or natural sound
  • v. exchange thoughts; talk with


Middle English speken, from Old English sprecan, specan.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English speken ("to speak"), from Old English specan ("to speak"), alteration of earlier sprecan ("to speak"), from Proto-Germanic *sprekanan (“to speak, make a sound”), from Proto-Indo-European *spreg- (“to make a sound, utter, speak”). Cognate with West Frisian sprekke, Dutch spreken ("to speak"), German sprechen ("to speak"), Albanian shpreh ("to utter, voice, express"). (Wiktionary)


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