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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This biohazard sign is a completely conventional symbol with no inherent relationship to what it represents.
This "no smoking" symbol combines the conventional "no" symbol with a somewhat abstracted image of a cigarette.

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 semiotics and 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:

A signboard on a beach in Durban in apartheid-era South Africa indicates a racially segregated beach.
A routed wooden sign on a trail

See also



Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Etymology 1

From Old French signe, from Latin signum (a mark, sign, token); root uncertain.




sign (plural signs)

  1. (sometimes also used uncountably) A visible indication.
    Their angry expressions were a clear sign they didn't want to talk.
    Those clouds show signs of raining soon.
    Those clouds show little sign of raining soon.
  2. A clearly visible object, generally flat, bearing a short message in words or pictures.
    The sign in the window said "for rent".
  3. A traffic sign.
    I missed the sign at the corner so I took the wrong turn.
  4. A meaningful gesture.
    I gave them a thumbs-up sign.
  5. Any of several specialized non-alphabetic symbols.
    The sharp sign indicates that the pitch of the note is raised a half step.
  6. An astrological sign.
    Your sign is Taurus? That's no surprise.
  7. (mathematics) Positive or negative polarity.
    I got the magnitude right, but the sign was wrong.
  8. A linguistic unit in sign language equivalent to word in spoken languages.
    What's the sign for "computer"?
  9. (uncountable) sign language in general
    Sorry, I don't know sign very well.
  10. An omen.
    "It's a sign of the end of the world," the doom prophet said.
Derived terms
Related terms

Etymology 2

From Old French signer, from Latin signare (to mark, seal, indicate, signify), from signum (a mark, sign); see sign as a noun.


to sign

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to sign (third-person singular simple present signs, present participle signing, simple past and past participle signed)

  1. (transitive) To write one's signature on (a document), thus showing authorship.
    I forgot to sign that letter to my aunt.
  2. (transitive) To give legal consent by writing one's signature.
    I'm not signing anything without my lawyer present.
  3. (transitive) To persuade to sign a contract.
    It was a great month. I managed to sign three major players.
  4. (intransitive) To write one's signature somewhere.
    Please sign on the dotted line.
  5. (intransitive) (colloquial) To give autographs.
    I'm sorry, I don't sign.
  6. (intransitive) To communicate using sign language.
    I'm learning to sign so I can talk to my new neighbor.
Derived terms
Related terms

External links

  • sign in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • sign in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911


Simple English

A sign is something you see (or hear) which means something. A sign may be natural or man-made.

A natural sign shows something significant. Leaves turn brown and fall off deciduous trees in the Autumn. It suggests Winter is coming. A pain suggests something is wrong with your health.

A man-made sign is called a signal or symbol. It is an artificial thing, which people decide means something in their society. For example, the stop sign on the road tells the person that they must stop their car there. So does a red traffic light. They are signals with a legal meaning, and people learn what these meanings are.

Sometimes a person may not know what a sign means. Feeling a cold wind could be a sign that someone left a door or window open.

Road signs

File:Stop sign at
A stop sign

A road sign or traffic sign is something that gives information by means of a symbol, or in only 1 or 2 words. It helps people in their vehicles on the road. Some signs include: Give way, Stop, Keep left, No U-turn, no parking, Zebra crossing and much more. Signs are very useful. Without signs and traffic lights there would be many accidents and arguments on the road.

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