1. Something that suggests the presence or existence of a fact, condition, or quality: A high temperature is a sign of fever.
a. An act or gesture used to convey an idea, a desire, information, or a command: gave the go-ahead sign. See Synonyms at gesture.
b. Sign language.
a. A displayed structure bearing lettering or symbols, used to identify or advertise a place of business: a motel with a flashing neon sign outside.
b. A posted notice bearing a designation, direction, or command: an EXIT sign above a door; a traffic sign.
4. A conventional figure or device that stands for a word, phrase, or operation; a symbol, as in mathematics or in musical notation.
5. pl. sign An indicator, such as a dropping or footprint, of the trail of an animal: looking for deer sign.
6. A trace or vestige: no sign of life.
7. A portentous incident or event; a presage: took the eclipse as a sign from God.
8. Medicine An objective finding, usually detected on physical examination, from a laboratory test, or on an x-ray, that indicates the presence of abnormality or disease.
9. One of the 12 divisions of the zodiac, each named for a constellation and represented by a symbol.
v. signed, sign·ing, signs
1. To affix one's signature to: signed the letter.
2. To write (one's signature): signed her name to the contract.
3. To approve or ratify (a document) by affixing a signature, seal, or other mark: sign a bill into law.
4. To hire or engage by obtaining a signature on a contract: signed a rookie pitcher for next season; sign up actors for a tour.
5. To relinquish or transfer title to by signature: signed away all her claims to the estate.
6. To provide with a sign or signs: sign a new highway.
7. To communicate with a sign or signs: signed his approval with a nod.
8. To express (a word or thought, for example) in a sign language: signed her reply to the question.
9. To consecrate with the sign of the cross.
1. To make a sign or signs; signal.
2. To communicate in a sign language.
3. To write one's signature.
1. To record the arrival of another or oneself by signing a register.
2. To log in to a website or network.
1. To announce the end of a communication; conclude.
2. To stop transmission after identifying the broadcasting station.
3. Informal To express approval formally or conclusively: got Congress to sign off on the new tax proposal.
1. To enlist oneself, especially as an employee: "Retired politicians often sign on with top-dollar law firms" (New York Times).
2. To be in agreement with something; accept or support something: a senator who signed on to the president's tax policy.
3. To start transmission with an identification of the broadcasting station.
1. To record the departure of another or oneself by signing a register.
2. To log out of a website or network.
To agree to be a participant or recipient by signing one's name; enlist: signed up for military service; signing up for a pottery course.
[Middle English signe, from Old French, from Latin signum; see sekw-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.