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[sig-nl] /ˈsɪg nl/
anything that serves to indicate, warn, direct, command, or the like, as a light, a gesture, an act, etc.:
a traffic signal; a signal to leave.
anything agreed upon or understood as the occasion for concerted action.
an act, event, or the like that causes or incites some action:
The unjust execution was the signal for revolt.
a token; indication.
Electronics. an electrical quantity or effect, as current, voltage, or electromagnetic waves, that can be varied in such a way as to convey information.
Cards. a play that reveals to one's partner a wish that he or she continue or discontinue the suit led.
serving as a signal; used in signaling:
a signal flag.
unusual; notable; outstanding:
a signal exploit.
verb (used with object), signaled, signaling or (especially British) signalled, signalling.
to make a signal to.
to communicate or make known by a signal.
verb (used without object), signaled, signaling or (especially British) signalled, signalling.
to make communication by a signal or signals.
Origin of signal
1350-1400; Middle English (noun) < Medieval Latin signāle, Late Latin, noun use of neuter of signālis of a sign. See sign, -al2, -al1
Related forms
signaler; especially British, signaller, noun
presignal, noun, verb (used with object), presignaled, presignaling or (especially British) presignalled, presignaling.
resignal, verb, resignaled, resignaling or (especially British) resignalled, resignalling.
unsignaled, adjective
unsignalled, adjective
Can be confused
signal, single.
1, 4. sign. 8. unique, exceptional, remarkable, striking. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for signalled
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I learn that an automobile driven by Germans and flying the Red Cross flag has been signalled.

    Beyond the Marne Henriette Cuvru-Magot
  • I heard that Uhlans had been signalled near the Saar, but I didn't believe it.

    Lorraine Robert W. Chambers
  • Cassard had signalled Feuquières to weigh and convoy the grain-ships out while he engaged the two English ships.

  • Jack, therefore, signalled to the frigate to send a doctor forthwith.

    The Three Midshipmen W.H.G. Kingston
  • Tryon grew impatient and signalled to the Camperdown—“What are you waiting for?”

    Admiral Jellicoe Arthur Applin
  • Immediately, Kamimura signalled, ordering their destruction.

  • He signalled for his officers to come on board the Buonaventura.

  • The Peninsular and Oriental mail-boat had been signalled and had come.

British Dictionary definitions for signalled


any sign, gesture, token, etc, that serves to communicate information
anything that acts as an incitement to action: the rise in prices was a signal for rebellion
  1. a variable parameter, such as a current or electromagnetic wave, by which information is conveyed through an electronic circuit, communications system, etc
  2. the information so conveyed
  3. (as modifier): signal strength, a signal generator
distinguished or conspicuous
used to give or act as a signal
verb -nals, -nalling, -nalled (US) -nals, -naling, -naled
to communicate (a message, etc) to (a person)
Derived Forms
signaller, (US) signaler, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Old French seignal, from Medieval Latin signāle, from Latin signum sign
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for signalled



late 14c., "visible sign, indication," from Old French signal, seignal "seal, imprint, sign, mark," from Medieval Latin signale "a signal," from Late Latin signalis (adj.) "used as a signal, pertaining to a sign," from Latin signum "signal, sign" (see sign (n.)). Restricted sense "agreed-upon sign (to commence or desist, etc.) is from 1590s. Meaning "modulation of an electric current" is from 1855.


"remarkable, striking, notable" ("serving as a sign"), 1640s, from French signalé, past participle of signaler "to distinguish, signal" (see signal (n.)).


1805, "to make signals to," from signal (n.). Related: Signaled; signaling. Earlier verb was signalize (1650s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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signalled in Science
A fluctuating quantity or impulse whose variations represent information. The amplitude or frequency of voltage, current, electric field strength, light, and sound can be varied as signals representing information.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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