Meaning of “say” in the English Dictionary

"say" in English

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uk /seɪ/ us /seɪ/ said, said

say verb (SPEAK)

A1 [ T ] to pronounce words or sounds, to express a thought, opinion, or suggestion, or to state a fact or instruction:

Small children find it difficult to say long words.
She said goodbye to all her friends and left.
Ben never forgets to say "Please" and "Thank you".
How do you say "goodbye" in French?
I'm sorry, what did you say?
Do you know what she said to him?
What did they say about the house?
[ + speech ] "I'm going out this evening," she said.
He said to himself (= thought), "This will never work."
[ + (that) ] The doctors say (that) it will take him a few weeks to recover.
[ + question word ] She didn't say whether she was coming.
Did she say (= tell you) why she wasn't coming?
[ + to infinitive ] informal He said (= told me) to meet him here.
I've got something to say to you.
The offer was so good that I couldn't say no (= couldn't refuse).

More examples

  • He said he was coming.
  • I said she should give him a call.
  • Did she say why she left so early?
  • He said that he'd already tried it.
  • What did she say about the cost?

say verb (THINK)

B1 [ I or T ] to think or believe:

[ + (that) ] People/They say (that) he's over 100.
"It's going to be a very hot summer." "So they say (= that is what people believe)."
She is a firm leader, too firm, some might say (= some people believe that she is too firm).

B1 [ I or T ] to give (as) an opinion or suggestion about something:

"Who do you think will get the job?" "I'd rather not say."
What are you saying, exactly? (= What do you mean?)
[ + (that) ] We've been driving all day - I say (that) we start looking for a motel now.
informal What do you say we sell the car? (= What do you think about selling it?)

[ T ] to show what you think without using words:

[ + (that) ] The look on his face said (= showed) (that) he knew what had happened.

B2 [ T always passive ] When something or someone is said to be a particular thing, that is what people think or believe about it, him, or her:

[ + (that) ] It is said (that) Latin is a difficult language to learn.
[ + to be + noun/adj ] He's said to be over 100.

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B1 [ T ] to give information in writing, numbers, or signs:

My watch says three o'clock.
Can you read what that sign says?
[ + (that) ] It says in the paper (that) they've found the man who did it.
[ + to infinitive ] It says on the bottle to take three tabletsa day.

More examples


uk /seɪ/ us /seɪ/ old-fashioned

saynoun [ S or U ]

uk /seɪ/ us /seɪ/

(Definition of “say” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"say" in American English

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us /seɪ/ past tense and past participle said /sed/ , present tense says /sez/

say verb (SPEAK)

[ T ] to speak or pronounce words:

How do you say your name?
The child could say her ABCs when she was still a baby.

say verb (EXPRESS)

[ I/T ] to express something in words, or to tell someone something:

[ T ] What did you say to him?
[ I ] Mom said to meet her in front of the building.

[ I/T ] To say also means to communicate without using words, esp. in music and art:

[ T ] What do you think the artist said in this painting?


[ I/T ] to state an opinion:

[ + (that) clause ] If they’re late, I say (that) we go without them.

[ I/T ] Say can also mean imagine:

[ + (that) clause ] Let’s say (that) you are a planner and that you think far ahead.


[ I/T ] to provide information or instructions in writing:

[ T ] What does that sign say?

saynoun [ U ]

us /seɪ/

say noun [ U ] (RIGHT TO AN OPINION)

the right or opportunity to give your opinion or be involved in making decisions:

I have no say in hiring and firing.

(Definition of “say” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)