sign / sīn/ • n. 1. an object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else: flowers are often given as a sign of affection | the stores are full, which is a sign that the recession is past its worst. ∎ something regarded as an indication or evidence of what is happening or going to happen: the signs are that counterfeiting is growing at an alarming rate. ∎ used to indicate that someone or something is not present where they should be or are expected to be: there was still no sign of her. ∎ Med. an indication of a disease detectable by a medical practitioner even if not apparent to the patient.Compare with symptom. ∎ a miracle regarded as evidence of supernatural power (chiefly in biblical and literary use). ∎ any trace of a wild animal, esp. its tracks or droppings: wolverine sign.2. a gesture or action used to convey information or instructions: she gave him the thumbs-up sign. ∎ a notice that is publicly displayed giving information or instructions in a written or symbolic form: I didn't see the stop sign. ∎ an action or reaction that conveys something about someone's state or experiences: she gave no sign of having seen him. ∎ a gesture used in a system of sign language. ∎ short for sign language. ∎ a symbol or word used to represent an operation, instruction, concept, or object in algebra, music, or other subjects. ∎ a word or gesture given according to prior arrangement as a means of identification; a password.3. (also zodiacal sign) Astrol. each of the twelve equal sections into which the zodiac is divided, named from the constellations formerly situated in each, and associated with successive periods of the year according to the position of the sun on the ecliptic: a person born under the sign of Virgo.4. Math. the positiveness or negativeness of a quantity.• v. 1. [tr.] write one's name on (a letter, card, or similar item) to identify oneself as the writer or sender: the card was signed by the whole class. ∎ indicate agreement with or authorization of the contents of (a document or other written or printed material) by attaching a signature: the two countries signed a nonaggression treaty. ∎ write (one's name) for purposes of identification or authorization: she signed her name in the book | [tr.] she signed herself Ingrid | [intr.] he signed on the dotted line. ∎ engage (someone, typically a sports player or a musician) to work for one by signing a contract with them: the company signed 30 bands. ∎ [intr.] sign a contract committing oneself to work for a particular person or organization: Sherman has signed for another two seasons.2. [intr.] use gestures to convey information or instructions: she signed to her husband to leave the room. ∎ communicate in sign language: she was learning to sign. ∎ [tr.] express or perform (something) in sign language: [as adj.] (signed) the theater routinely puts on signed performances. ∎ archaic [tr.] mark or consecrate with the sign of the cross.PHRASES: sign of the cross a Christian sign made in blessing or prayer by tracing a cross from the forehead to the chest and to each shoulder, or in the air.sign of the times something judged to exemplify or indicate the nature or quality of a particular period, typically something unwelcome or unpleasant: the theft was a sign of the times.signed, sealed, and delivered (or signed and sealed) formally and officially agreed and in effect.PHRASAL VERBS: sign something away/over officially relinquish rights or property by signing a deed: I have no intention of signing away my inheritance.sign for sign a receipt to confirm that one has received (something delivered or handed over).sign in sign a register on arrival, typically in a hotel.sign someone in record someone's arrival in a register.sign off conclude a letter, broadcast, or other message: he signed off with a few words of advice. ∎ sign to record that one is leaving work for the day. ∎ Bridge indicate by a conventional bid that one is seeking to end the bidding. sign someone off record that someone is entitled to miss work, typically because of illness.sign off on inf. assent or give one's approval to: it was hard to get celebrities to sign off on those issues.sign on chiefly Brit. commit oneself to employment, membership in a society, or some other undertaking: I'll sign on with an advertising agency. sign someone on take someone into one's employment.sign out sign a register to record one's departure, typically from a hotel.sign someone out authorize someone's release or record their departure by signing a register.sign something out sign to indicate that one has borrowed or hired something: I signed out the keys.sign up commit oneself to a period of employment or education or to some other undertaking: he signed up for a ten-week course. ∎ enlist in the armed forces. ∎ (also sign something up) conclude a business deal: the company has already signed up a few orders.sign someone up formally engage someone in employment.DERIVATIVES: sign·er n.ORIGIN: Middle English: from Old French signe (noun), signer (verb), from Latin signum ‘mark, token.’
A sign is anything that represents to a knowing power something other than itself. For example, the color white, which is not itself joy, is a sign of joy in the Latin rite. A sign, then, is always distinguished from the thing signified; it is not a matter of the volitional or emotional orders, but of the cognitive. Nevertheless, the knowing power need not be the intellect; the sign is a reality of the brute-animal world as well as of the human.
Types of Sign. There are six traditional types of sign: natural or artificial, instrumental or formal, imaging or nonimaging. A natural sign receives its significative force from nature itself, as smoke is a sign of fire. An artificial or arbitrary sign, on the other hand, receives its significative force from those using the sign, as a white color signifies joy for some people. When an artificial sign is imposed by tradition, it is sometimes called a customary sign; otherwise, it is a conventional sign. An instrumental sign is one that must be known apart from and before the thing signified. Thus one must first learn of the connection between smoke and fire, between white and joy, before smoke and white can become signs. When a sign is known together with the thing signified, on the other hand, it is a formal sign. An example is a bird's danger cry, which conveys its meaning at once, even though it may never have been heard before. An instrumental sign requires previous education and experience; a formal sign is grasped intuitively. An imaging sign is one that pictures the thing signified, as in picture writing; a nonimaging sign is one that does not picture the thing signified, as in writing employing an alphabet.
Uses of Sign. The sign plays a role in philosophy and theology, as well as in formal disciplines. In philosophy, realists consider the concept or idea as the natural and formal sign of extramental reality, and the term or word as the artificial and instrumental sign of the concept. For this reason the universal term is called universale in significando, i.e., the universal as it is a sign (see universals). In theology, sign is indispensable for discussing the sacraments and the liturgy, although for the latter symbol is frequently used as synonymous with sign. Modern mathematicians and logicians restrict their use of symbol to artificial, nonimaging signs, usually written, such as "p," or "q," (see logic, symbolic). In linguistic analysis, discussions of meaning are basically discussions of signs and what they signify (see semantics; semiotics).
So vb. mark with a sign XIV; affix one's mark or name (to) XV. — (O)F. signer — L. signāre. signal 1 sign or token (of); sign agreed upon XVI. — (O)F., alt. of earlier seignal :- Rom. (medL.) signāle, sb. use of n. of late L. signālis; see -AL1. Hence signal vb. XIX. signalize XVII. signal 2 striking, remarkable. XVII. — F. signalé, earlier †segnalé — It. segnalato, pp. of segnalare make illustrious, f. segnale = OF. seignal (see above). signatory †used in sealing XVII; (forming) one of those whose signatures are attached XIX. — L. signātōrius; see -ORY2. signature XVI. — F. signature (- It. segnatura) or medL. signātura, f. pp. stem of L. signāre. signet small seal. XIV. -(O)F. signet or medL. signētum, dim. of signe, signum SIGN. significance meaning XV; importance XVIII. — OF. significance or L. significantia, f. prp. of significāre; see -ANCE. So significant XVI. significāns, -ant-. L. signification XIII. — (O)F. L. signif'y XIII. — (O)F. signifier — L. significāre.
sign on the dotted line agree formally; the space on a document for a signature is often indicated by a line of small dashes.
See also signed.