from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To denote; mean.
  • intransitive verb To be a sign or indication of; suggest or imply.
  • intransitive verb To make known, as with a sign or word.
  • intransitive verb To have meaning or importance.
  • intransitive verb Slang To exchange humorous insults in a verbal game.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To be a sign or token of (a fact or pretended fact); represent or suggest, either naturally or conventionally; betoken; mean.
  • To import, in the Paracelsian sense. See signature, 2.
  • To import relatively; have the purport or bearing of; matter in regard to (something expressed or implied): as, that signifies little or nothing to us; it signifies much.
  • To make known by signs, speech, or action; communicate; give notice of; announce; declare.
  • To exhibit as a sign or representation; make as a similitude.
  • Synonyms To manifest, intimate, denote, imply, indicate.
  • To have import or meaning; be of consequence; matter.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To show by a sign; to communicate by any conventional token, as words, gestures, signals, or the like; to announce; to make known; to declare; to express.
  • transitive verb To mean; to import; to denote; to betoken.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb To give (something) a meaning or an importance.
  • verb To show one’s intentions with a sign etc.
  • verb To mean; to betoken.

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

  • verb denote or connote
  • verb make known with a word or signal
  • verb convey or express a meaning


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

[Middle English signifien, from Old French signifier, from Latin significāre : signum, sign; see sign + -ficāre, -fy.]



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  • I love this word as Jane Austen uses it -- that a thing has no importance or is not significant, e.g. "It will not much signify what one wears."

    November 30, 2007