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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  • Not only does the term signify full recognition of nursing's human foundation and meaning but it also points the direction for nursing's necessary development.

    Humanistic Nursing Josephine G. Paterson

  • Canonical Books, it was but an easy step to make the term signify the

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 14: Simony-Tournon 1840-1916 1913

  • Alexandria makes the term signify in Syria, impudent, thieving, wicked.

    Arabian nights. English Anonymous 1855

  • Removing these monuments would signify is a clear aggression against Russian sentiment.

    Estonian Symbolism, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty 2009

  • What these developments signify is that with respect to competition policy Canada has some considerable yardage to make up.

    Competition Policy in Canada 1975

  • So rapid is this movement that "quick as a wink" is a common phrase to signify speed, and the German word for "an instant" is ein Augenblick ( "an eyewink").

    The Human Brain Asimov, Isaac 1963

  • Where was Mount Calvary, and what does the name signify?

    Baltimore Catechism No. 3 (of 4) Anonymous

  • In no single one of them does the expression signify the community or the congregation taken in a distinctly democratic sense, by which emphasis would be laid on the self-government of the faithful.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 7: Gregory XII-Infallability 1840-1916 1913

  • We are associates in business; business of a most important -- But what does that term signify to you, my precious ladybird?

    The Net Rex Ellingwood Beach 1913

  • The three elements composing his name signify "the mighty one of the great dwelling-place," but it is, again, an open question whether this is a mere play upon the character of the god, as in the name of Ea (according to one of the interpretations above suggested), or whether it is an ideographic form of the name.

    The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria Morris Jastrow 1891


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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