sign

sign n 1 Sign, mark, token, badge, note, symptom can denote a sensible and usually visible indication by means of which something not outwardly apparent or obvious is made known or revealed.
Sign is the most comprehensive of these terms, being referable to a symbol (see also CHARACTER 1) or a symbolic device or act
{

the mace is the sign of authority

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{

make the sign of the cross

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or to a visible or sensible manifestation of a mood, a mental or physical state, or a quality of character
{

good manners are signs of good breeding

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{

they are gestures of exclusion—not snobbery, merely signs of a private life with all its unique standards— Fadiman

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{

suicide is the sign of failure, misery, and despair— Ellis

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or to a trace or vestige of someone or something
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the signs of her fate in a footprint here, a broken twig there, a trinket dropped by the way— Conrad

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or to objective evidence that serves as a presage or foretoken
{

signs of an early spring

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{

there are signs that poetry is beginning to occupy itself again with the possibilities of sound—Day Lewis

}
{

two men that night watched for a sign, listened for a wonder— Gwyn Jones

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and concretely to a placard, board, tablet, or card that serves to identify, announce, or direct
{

watch for a road sign

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{

a brilliantly lighted bar sign

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{

did you see the sign announcing the new play?

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{

"for rent" signs in the dingy windows

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Mark (see also CHARACTER 1) may be preferred to sign when the distinguishing or revealing indication is thought of as something impressed upon a thing or inherently characteristic of it, often in contrast to something outwardly apparent or displayed
{

the bitter experience left its mark on him

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{

courtesy is the mark of a gentleman

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{

the distinguishing marks of Victorian poetry

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{

what, then, are the marks of culture and efficiency?— Suzzallo

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{

the unrealized schemes of [the] past. . . have usually left their mark in the shape of some unfinished pier, half completed parade— Angus Wilson

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Concretely also mark is applied either
(1) to some visible trace (as a scar or a stain or a track) left upon a thing
{

birthmark

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{

the marks of smallpox

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{

the high-water mark is observable on the pier's supports

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{

the marks of an army's passage

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{

they found not a button, or feather, or mark, by which they could tell that they stood on the ground where the Baker had met with the Snark— Lewis Carroll

}
or (2) to something that is affixed in order to distinguish, identify, or label a particular thing or to indicate its ownership
{

a trademark

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{

a laundry mark

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Token (see also PLEDGE) can replace sign and also mark except in their specific concrete applications when the sensible indication serves as a proof of or is given as evidence of the actual existence of something that has no physical existence
{

how could he doubt her love when he had had so many tokens of her affection?

}
{

the savages bore gifts as tokens of their desire for peace and friendship

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{

tokens tossed his way— an occasional salute, a "well done" for the preflights ... a tense smile—were hoarded fervently— Pynchon

}
Badge designates a piece of metal or a ribbon carrying an inscription or emblem and worn upon the person as a token of one's membership in a society or as a sign of one's office, employment, or function
{

a policeman's badge

}
{

each delegate wore a badge

}
{

a gold key is the badge of membership in Phi Beta Kappa

}
In extended use badge often is employed in place of sign, mark, or token when it is thought of in reference to a class, a group, a category of persons, or as a distinctive feature of their dress, their appearance, or their character
{

for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe— Shak.

}
{

essentially we were taught to regard culture as a veneer, a badge of class distinction— Malcolm Cowley

}
{

the diplomat wearing his badge of office, the Homburg— Siler

}
Note usually means a distinguishing or dominant mark or characteristic; it differs from mark, its closest synonym, in suggesting something emitted or given out by a thing, rather than something impressed upon that thing
{

a fertile oasis possesses a characteristic color scheme of its own .... The fundamental note is struck by the palms— Huxley

}
{

you walk on stage . . . and somehow you're alive, and inside the part, and yet you're projecting a peculiar note, your own— Wouk

}
{

the note of sadness . . . which . . . poets were to find so much more to their taste than the note of gladness— Henry Adamsy

}
Note may be used in place of mark for a characteristic that seems to emanate from a thing that strikes one as true or authentic and therefore is the test of a similar thing's truth, genuineness, or authoritativeness
{

the grand manner that is the note of great poetry

}
{

tolerance, moderation, and pity are the abiding notes which help to keep Chaucer's poetry level with life— H. S. Bennett

}
Symptom can apply to any of the physical or mental changes from the normal which can be interpreted as evidence of disease, but in medical use it is commonly restricted to the subjective evidences of disease primarily apparent to the sufferer and is then opposed to sign, which is applied to the objective evidences of abnormality that are primarily determined by tests and instruments
{

symptoms and signs taken together constitute the evidence on which a diagnosis can be based

}
In extended use the term tends to follow popular rather than professional medical use and is applicable to an outward indication of an inner change (as in an institution, a state, or the body politic) or to an external phenomenon that may be interpreted as the result of some internal condition (as a weakness, defect, or disturbance)
{

even that... is treated lightly as a foible of the age, and not as a symptom of social decay and change— T. S. Eliot

}
{

the belief that a young man's athletic record is a test of his worth is a symptom of our general failure to grasp the need of knowledge and thought in mastering the complex modern world— Russell

}
{

she wanted ... to be alone so that she could study and afterwards remember each symptom of this excitement that had caught her— Auchincloss

}
Analogous words: indication, betokening, attesting or attestation (see corresponding verbs at INDICATE): manifestation, evidencing or evidence, demonstration, showing or show (see corresponding verbs at SHOW): intimation, suggestion (see corresponding verbs at SUGGEST)
2 Sign, signal can both mean a motion, an action, a gesture, or a word by which a command or wish is expressed or a thought is made known. Sign (see also SIGN 1; CHARACTER 1) is the general term that in itself carries no explicit connotations; it is used in reference to a bodily motion (as a shrug) or a gesture (as a beckoning) or an action (as a pantomime) by which one conveys a thought, a command, a direction, or a need to another with whom one either cannot communicate orally (as by reason of deaf-mutism, or lack of a common language, or distance) or does not wish to communicate orally (as from consideration of others or desire for secrecy)
{

put a finger to her lips as a sign for quiet

}
{

the explorer made signs to the natives to show his friendly intentions

}
Signal usually applies to a conventional and recognizable sign that typically conveys a command, a direction, or a warning
{

she was startled by a ring at the door, the certain signal of a visitor— Austen

}
{

the flying of the first champagne cork gave the signal, and a hum began to spread— Meredith

}
{

at a signal given by the train conductor, the engineer climbed into his engine— Anderson

}
Signal is also applied to mechanical devices which by operating lights, moving barriers, or sounding an alarm, take the place of a guard, a watchman, or a policeman
{

traffic signals

}
{

railroad signals

}
Analogous words: *gesture, gesticulation: *symbol, emblem
3 symbol, *character, mark
Analogous words: *device, contrivance

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

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