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

  • n. One that signifies.
  • n. Linguistics A linguistic unit or pattern, such as a succession of speech sounds, written symbols, or gestures, that conveys meaning; a linguistic sign. The signifier of the concept "tree” is, in English, the string of speech sounds (t), (r), and (ē); in German, (b), (ou), and (m).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The sound of spoken word or string of letters on a page that a person recognizes as a sign.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who or that which signifies, indicates, or makes known.

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

  • n. the phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to describe or identify something


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

Translation of French signifiant, present participle of signifier, to signify.


  • A social signifier is one that is either created or interpreted by people or society, signifying social activity or appropriate social behavior.

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  • This country's chief signifier is our staggering capacity to isolate ourselves from the effects of our political and lifestyle choices.

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  • Return of the MacGuffin: Iran and Nuclear Weapons (K-punk) “A MacGuffin (sometimes spelt McGuffin or Magoffin), an empty master-signifier, is a now-ubiquitous plot device or catalyst that holds no meaning or purpose of its own except to motivate the players or characters and advance a narrative or story.”

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  • The fallacious translation of trope into signifier is symptomatically reiterated later in the chapter in the form of an atypical terminological mistake.

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  • The ideas behind the words, the signified beyond the signifier, is what really matters.

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  • The signifier is the word itself, its sound and the actual sequence of its letters.

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  • If we presume the signifier is the signified we fall into the trap of logocentrism.

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  • Both are psychological: the signifier is a “sound - image,” the signified is the concept associated with this sound-image.


  • Rewriting the Saussurean model for a design perspective would look like this: S - signifier, the expression, The FORM, the aesthetics, Objective - outer world s - signified, the content, The CONCEPT, what it stands for, Subjective - innerworld The signifier is the physical form of an object; what we see, touch and smell in the objective and shared reality.

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  • Thus, although there are many possible signifiers of wind speed and direction, including flags, the movement of grasses or tree leaves, or traveling debris, if the signifier is a flag, it is also a social signifier, for it had to be placed in its location by people, presumably for a reason (which may have nothing to do with providing an indication of the wind).


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  • I love the sound of T - and I love the way in which it acts as a rich signifier: (AFTERNOON) TEA, (BUILDERS') TEA), (CHINA, INDIAN) TEA, (GOLF) TEE, TI AS OPPOSED TO VI (in Serbian, with corresponding differentiation in other Slavonic languages), criterion of suitability and other examples that I will allow you to discover for yourselves. Clashes between homophones can be seen in this light.

    May 8, 2013