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

  • n. An indicator, such as a gesture or colored light, that serves as a means of communication. See Synonyms at gesture.
  • n. A message communicated by such means.
  • n. Something that incites action: The peace treaty was the signal for celebration.
  • n. Electronics An impulse or a fluctuating electric quantity, such as voltage, current, or electric field strength, whose variations represent coded information.
  • n. The sound, image, or message transmitted or received in telegraphy, telephony, radio, television, or radar.
  • adj. Notably out of the ordinary: a signal feat; a signal event.
  • transitive v. To make a signal to: I signaled the driver to proceed.
  • transitive v. To relate or make known by signals: They have signaled their willingness to negotiate.
  • intransitive v. To make a signal or signals.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An indication given to another person.
  • n. An on-off light, semaphore, or other device used to give an indication to another person.
  • n. An electrical or electromagnetic action, normally a voltage that is a function of time that conveys the information of the radio or TV program or of communication with another party.
  • n. Useful information.
  • n. A simple interprocess communication used to notify a process or thread of an occurrence.
  • v. To indicate.
  • adj. Standing above others in rank, importance, or achievement.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Noticeable; distinguished from what is ordinary; eminent; remarkable; memorable.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to signals, or the use of signals in conveying information.
  • n. A sign made for the purpose of giving notice to a person of some occurence, command, or danger; also, a sign, event, or watchword, which has been agreed upon as the occasion of concerted action.
  • n. A token; an indication; a foreshadowing; a sign.
  • transitive v. To communicate by signals.
  • transitive v. To notify by a signals; to make a signal or signals to.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Constituting, or serving as, a typical sign or index; especially conspicuous or noteworthy; strikingly uncommon: as, a signal example; a signal failure; signal prosperity.
  • Of high grade or quality; eminent; great; elevated: applied to persons and feelings.
  • Synonyms Conspicuous, extraordinary.
  • n. Sign; token; indication.
  • n. A conventional or intelligible sign designed for information or guidance; an object displayed, a motion made, a light shown, a sound given out, or the like, for direction to or communication with a person or persons (especially at a distance) apprised of or able to recognize its intended meaning: as, to hoist, sound, or make a signal; military and naval signals; a warning signal; a book of signals (see signal-book).
  • n. An inciting action or movement; an exciting cause; an initial impulse: as, this tyrannous act was the signal for insurrection.
  • To mark with a sign.
  • To communicate or make known by a signal or by signals: as, to signal orders; a vessel signals its arrival.
  • To make signals to: as, the vessel signaled the forts.
  • To he a sign or omen.
  • To give a signal or signals; make communication by signals.
  • n.
  • n. In whist, any method of showing that the player wants trumps led. See trumps signal.

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

  • v. be a signal for or a symptom of
  • n. any incitement to action
  • n. an electric quantity (voltage or current or field strength) whose modulation represents coded information about the source from which it comes
  • adj. notably out of the ordinary
  • v. communicate silently and non-verbally by signals or signs
  • n. any nonverbal action or gesture that encodes a message


Middle English, from Old French, from Medieval Latin signāle, from neuter of Late Latin signālis, of a sign, from Latin signum, sign; see sign.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French segnal, seignal or Medieval Latin signāle, noun use of the neuter of Late Latin signālis, from Latin signum. (Wiktionary)


  • This became a spam signal because it is so easy to create large database driven websites, but in the case of many sites it is also a good * quality signal* because the site may be very info rich, covering basically every mile of the Oregon Coast Highway 101 in good, objective detail.

    Joe Duck

  • The issue is not really “signaling”: everybody knows that the FDIC guarantee makes your (fractional reserve) bank account safer; there is no need to *signal* the fact (signaling is necessary only in the absence of a government guarantee, and even then it’s impossible to signal *that the government guarantees your account*, since it doesn’t).

    George Selgin on Free Banking, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • But does his willingness to press such a hot-button issue so early in his term signal an effort to change American hearts as well as minds?

    Top Stories - Google News

  • The proposition that this can be taken as a signal is an empirical argument that has not been supported.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Tushnet on Lithwick’s Lament

  • One thing against 802. 11n — despite the throughputs, the quality of the signal is almost always a game of chance.

    802.11n To Win The Wireless HD Video Sweepstakes

  • The two giants of the net are at war now over what I call signal generation: the ability to get us to generate data about ourselves—who we are, where we are, what we like, whom we like, what we buy, what we want, what we know, what we want to know—so they can serve us more relevant and valuable content, services, and advertising.

    Facebook's IPO announcement – as it happened

  • The two giants of the net are at war over what I call signal generation: the ability to get us to generate data about ourselves – who we are, where we are, what we like, whom we like, what we buy, what we want, what we know, what we want to know – so they can serve us more relevant and valuable content, services, and advertising.

    Mark Zuckerberg's masterplan for the 'sharing economy' | Jeff Jarvis

  • If you are admitting that an important part of the signal is a social signal, then there's no way for an entrepreneur to compete on price - When you're dealing with social cues of affluence, the price tag is an key part of the signal.

    Overcoming Signaling, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • The signals are in the air, everywhere … and they eventually get absorbed by something, or dissipate into the atmosphere regardless of whether the signal is absorbed in a useful way.

    Nokia Phone Charges by Drawing Energy Out of Thin Air | Inhabitat

  • Here, a signal is any variation or pattern in a physical or chemical medium that can convey information or be treated as a sign.

    Aiguy's Computer


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  • as an adjective. bleh.

    April 11, 2012

  • "Can't stop the signal!" - the (fan) Browncoat's cry

    December 18, 2007