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French. signal (Old French. also seignal, seignau, etc.), = Pg. sinal, Sp. señal, It. segnale, med.L. sign{a}l(e, a Romanic formation on L. signum SIGN: -AL1 4. Used by Chaucer and Gower, but otherwise evidenced only from the end of the 16th century.


  • 1. a. A visible sign; a badge or symbol. Obs.
b. A mark of distinction or honor. Obs.
  • 2. A sign, token, or indication (of something). In later use not clearly separable from sense 4.
  • 3. A sign agreed upon or understood as the occasion of concerted action, esp. one ordering the movement of troops or ships; also fig., an exciting cause.
b. An object serving to convey an intimation.
c. A modulation of an electric current, electromagnetic wave, or the like by means of which information is conveyed from one place to another; the current or wave itself; also, a current or wave whose presence is regarded as conveying information about the source from which it comes.