AskDefine | Define signification

Dictionary Definition

signification n : the message that is intended or expressed or signified; "what is the meaning of this sentence"; "the significance of a red traffic light"; "the signification of Chinese characters"; "the import of his announcement was ambigtuous" [syn: meaning, significance, import]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˌsɪgnɪfɪˈkeɪʃən/


  1. the act of signifying, or something that is signified; significance
  2. evidence for the existence of something
  3. the generally accepted meaning of a word

Extensive Definition

A sign is an entity which signifies another entity. A natural sign is an entity which bears a causal relation to the signified entity, as thunder is a sign of storm. A conventional sign signifies by agreement, as a full stop signifies the end of a sentence. (Contrast a symbol which stands for another thing, as a flag may be a symbol of a nation)
The way in which a sign signifies is a topic in philosophy of language, see also Meaning (linguistic).
Any given signifier or symbol is dependent upon that which is intended, expressed, or signified in a semiotic relationship of signification, significance, meaning, or import. Thus, for example, people may speak of the significance of events, the signification of characters, the meaning of sentences, or the import of a communication. These different relationships that exist between sorts of signs can help people and sorts of things that are signified can be called the modes of signification.
The range of uses of signs are varied. They might include: the indication or mark of something, a display of a message, a signal to draw attention, evidence of an underlying cause (for instance, the symptoms of a disease are signs of the disease), a character for a mathematical operation, a body gesture, etc.

Nature of signs

Semiotics, epistemology, logic, and philosophy of language are concerned about the nature of signs, what they are and how they signify. The nature of signs and symbols and significations, their definition, elements, and types, is mainly established by Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. According to these classic sources, significance is a relationship between two sorts of things: signs and the kinds of things they signify (intend, express or mean), where one term necessarily causes something else to come to the mind. Distinguishing natural signs and conventional signs, the traditional theory of signs sets the following threefold partition of things:
  1. There are things that are just things, not any sign at all;
  2. There are things that are also signs of other things (as natural signs of the physical world and mental signs of the mind);
  3. There are things that are always signs, as languages (natural and artificial) and other cultural nonverbal symbols, as documents, money, ceremonies, and rites.
Thus there are things which may act as signs without any respect to the human agent (the things of the external world, all sorts of indications, evidences, symptoms, and physical signals), there are signs which are always signs (the entities of the mind as ideas and images, thoughts and feelings, constructs and intentions); and there are signs that have to get their signification (as linguistic entities and cultural symbols). So, while natural signs serve as the source of signification, the human mind is the agency through which signs signify naturally occurring things, such as objects, states, qualities, quantities, events, processes, or relationships. Human language and discourse, communication, philosophy, science, logic, mathematics, poetry, theology, and religion are only some of fields of human study and activity where grasping the nature of signs and symbols and patterns of signification may have a decisive value.

Types of signs

A sign can denote any of the following:
signification in Czech: Znak
signification in Danish: Tegn
signification in German: Zeichen (Begriffsklärung)
signification in Spanish: Signo
signification in Estonian: Märk
signification in Esperanto: Signo
signification in French: Signe
signification in Croatian: Znak
signification in Ido: Signo
signification in Lithuanian: Ženklas
signification in Dutch: Sein
signification in Japanese: 記号
signification in Polish: Znak
signification in Portuguese: Signo
signification in Russian: Знак
signification in Simple English: Sign
signification in Slovenian: Znak
signification in Finnish: Merkki
signification in Swedish: Tecken
signification in Chinese: 表意文字
signification in Yiddish: צייכן

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acceptation, affective meaning, allocation, assignment, attribution, bearing, characterization, coloring, connotation, consequence, construction, denomination, denotation, designation, determination, differentiation, disclosure, drift, effect, essence, expression, extension, fingering, fixing, force, gist, grammatical meaning, hint, idea, identification, impact, implication, import, indication, indicativeness, intendment, intension, lexical meaning, literal meaning, magnitude, manifestation, meaning, message, moment, momentousness, naming, overtone, pertinence, picking out, pinning down, pith, point, pointing, pointing out, pointing to, practical consequence, precision, purport, range of meaning, real meaning, reference, referent, relation, relevance, scope, selection, semantic cluster, semantic field, sense, show, showing, significance, significancy, significatum, signifie, signifying, span of meaning, specification, spirit, stipulation, structural meaning, substance, suggestion, sum, sum and substance, symbolic meaning, symptomaticness, tenor, totality of associations, transferred meaning, unadorned meaning, understanding, undertone, value, weight, weightiness
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