American English

Definition of tongue noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable] the soft part in the mouth that moves around, used for tasting, swallowing, speaking, etc. He clicked his tongue to attract their attention. She ran her tongue over her lips. It's very rude to stick your tongue out at people.
  2. 2[uncountable, countable] the tongue of some animals, cooked and eaten a slice of ox tongue
  3. 3[countable] (formal or literary) a language None of the tribes speak the same tongue. I tried speaking to her in her native tongue. see also mother tongue
  4. 4[singular] a particular way of speaking He has a sharp tongue. (formal) I'll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head (= speak politely). see also silver tongue
  5. 5-tongued (in adjectives) speaking in the way mentioned sharp-tongued
  6. 6[countable] a long narrow piece of leather under the laces on a shoe
  7. 7[countable] tongue (of something) (literary) something that is long and narrow and shaped like a tongue a tongue of flame
  8. Idioms
    (has the) cat got your tongue? (informal)
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    said to someone, especially a child, who stays silent when expected to speak, for example after being asked a question What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?
    find your voice/tongue
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    to be able to speak or express your opinion
    get your tongue around/round something
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    to pronounce a difficult word correctly He was having trouble getting his tongue around my name.
    have a loose tongue
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    to talk too much, especially about things that are private
    hold your tongue/peace (old-fashioned)
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    to say nothing although you would like to give your opinion
    I/he/she could have bitten my/his/her tongue out/off
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    used when someone says something stupid or embarrassing and immediately wishes they had not said it
    loosen somebody's tongue
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    to make someone talk more freely than usual A bottle of wine had loosened Harry's tongue.
    on the tip of your tongue
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    if a word or name is on the tip of your tongue, you are sure that you know it but you cannot remember it
    roll/slip/trip off the tongue
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    to be easy to say or pronounce It's not a name that exactly trips off the tongue, is it?
    set tongues wagging (informal)
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    to cause people to start talking about someone's private affairs His sudden resignation set tongues wagging.
    a slip of the pen/tongue
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    a small mistake in something that you write or say Did I call you Richard? Sorry, Robert, just a slip of the tongue.
    watch your language/mouth/tongue
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    to be careful what you say in order not to offend someone or make them angry Watch your language, young man!
    with your tongue in your cheek, with tongue in cheek
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    if you say something with your tongue in your cheek, you are not being serious and mean it as a joke
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: tongue