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A human tongue.

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English tonge, tunge, tung, from Old English tunge, from Proto-Germanic *tungǭ (tongue) (compare West Frisian tonge, Dutch tong, German Zunge, Danish tunge, Norwegian Bokmål tunge, Swedish tunga), from Proto-Indo-European *dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s (compare Old Irish tengae, Latin lingua, Tocharian A käntu, Tocharian B kantwo, Lithuanian liežùvis, Polish język, Old Armenian լեզու (lezu), Sanskrit जिह्वा (jihvā́)).



tongue (plural tongues)

  1. The flexible muscular organ in the mouth that is used to move food around, for tasting and that is moved into various positions to modify the flow of air from the lungs in order to produce different sounds in speech.
  2. Any similar organ, such as the lingual ribbon, or odontophore, of a mollusk; the proboscis of a moth or butterfly; or the lingua of an insect.
  3. (metonymically) A language.
    He was speaking in his native tongue.
    The poem was written in her native tongue.
  4. The power of articulate utterance; speech generally.
    • Dryden
      parrots imitating human tongue
  5. (obsolete) Discourse; fluency of speech or expression.
    • L'Estrange
      Much tongue and much judgment seldom go together.
  6. (obsolete) Honourable discourse; eulogy.
    • Beaumont and Fletcher
      She was born noble; let that title find her a private grave, but neither tongue nor honour.
  7. (religion, often in the plural) Glossolalia.
  8. In a shoe, the flap of material that goes between the laces and the foot, so called because it resembles a tongue in the mouth.
  9. Any large or long physical protrusion on an automotive or machine part or any other part that fits into a long groove on another part.
  10. A projection, or slender appendage or fixture.
    the tongue of a buckle, or of a balance
  11. A long, narrow strip of land, projecting from the mainland into a sea or lake.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 12:
      On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low tongue of land, covered with mangrove thickets that grew out into the water.
  12. The pole of a vehicle; especially, the pole of an ox cart, to the end of which the oxen are yoked.
  13. The clapper of a bell.
  14. (figuratively) An individual point of flame from a fire.
    • 1895, H. G. Wells, chapter XI, in The Time Machine:
      Now, in this decadent age the art of fire-making had been altogether forgotten on the earth. The red tongues that went licking up my heap of wood were an altogether new and strange thing to Weena.
  15. A small sole (type of fish).
  16. (nautical) A short piece of rope spliced into the upper part of standing backstays, etc.; also, the upper main piece of a mast composed of several pieces.
  17. (music) A reed.



See also[edit]


tongue (third-person singular simple present tongues, present participle tonguing, simple past and past participle tongued)

  1. (music, transitive, intransitive) On a wind instrument, to articulate a note by starting the air with a tap of the tongue, as though by speaking a 'd' or 't' sound (alveolar plosive).
    Playing wind instruments involves tonguing on the reed or mouthpiece.
  2. (slang) To manipulate with the tongue, as in kissing or oral sex.
  3. To protrude in relatively long, narrow sections.
    a soil horizon that tongues into clay
  4. To join by means of a tongue and groove.
    to tongue boards together
  5. (intransitive, obsolete) To talk; to prate.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Dryden to this entry?)
  6. (transitive, obsolete) To speak; to utter.
    • Shakespeare
      such stuff as madmen tongue
  7. (transitive, obsolete) To chide; to scold.
    • Shakespeare
      How might she tongue me.

Derived terms[edit]