Meaning of “speak” in the English Dictionary

"speak" in British English

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speakverb

uk /spiːk/ us /spiːk/ spoke, spoken

speak verb (SAY WORDS)

A1 [ I or T ] to say words, to use the voice, or to have a conversation with someone:

Would you mind speaking more slowly, please?
mainly UK "Can I speak to Dan please?"
mainly US "Can I speak with Scott please?"
"Speaking." (= This is Scott.)
If he tells Julie what I said, I'll never speak to him again.
formal She spoke of her sadness over her father's death.
She speaks very highly of (= says good things about) the new director.
I can certainly come but I can't speak for my wife (= I can't tell you whether she can or not).
formal Who is going to speak for (= represent in a court of law) the accused?
He's old enough to speak for himself (= to say what he thinks).
I went with Ava - speaking of (= on the subject of) Ava, have you seen her new haircut?
We've been invited to Rachel and Jamie's wedding - speaking of which, did you know that they're moving to New York?
Speaking as (= with my experience as) a mother of four, I can tell you that children are exhausting.
Sue speaks with an American accent.
Why are you speaking in a whisper (= very quietly)?
For five whole minutes, neither of them spoke a word (= they both said nothing).
broadly, historically, strictly, etc. speaking

B2 talking from a particular point of view:

Historically speaking, the island is of great interest.
Generally speaking, it's a good school.
Strictly speaking (= if I behave according to the rules), I should report it to the police.
speak to sb

to tell someone that they have done something wrong:

The manager promised that she would speak to the person responsible.

More examples

  • Choking back my anger, I tried to speak calmly.
  • She cleared her throat nervously before she began to speak.
  • Can I speak to you confidentially?
  • "Can I speak to Isobel, please?" "She's still in bed. I'll just go and see if she's conscious yet."
  • It is considered bad manners in some cultures to speak with your mouth full of food.

speak verb (LANGUAGE)

A1 [ T ] to (be able to) talk in a language:

He speaks fluent French.
How many foreign languages do you speak?
I couldn't speak a word of (= I did not know any) Spanish when I got there.
I couldn't figure out what language they were speaking.

More examples

  • Unable to speak a word of the language, he communicated with his hands.
  • They speak a language akin to French.
  • Do you speak English?
  • I'd like to speak English fluently.
  • Do you speak Swedish ?

speak verb (FORMAL TALK)

B2 [ I ] to give a formal talk to a group of people:

Who is speaking in the debate tonight?
The Queen speaks to the nation on television every Christmas.
Janet is speaking for the motion (= trying to persuade the people listening that the idea is good) and Peter is speaking against (it) (= trying to persuade them that it is bad).

More examples

  • The audience clapped and cheered when she stood up to speak.
  • I've deputed Lara Brown to speak for me at the conference.
  • They invited her to speak especially because of her experience in inner cities.
  • There was loud jeering from the opposition parties when the prime minister stood up to speak.
  • He didn't want to be involved in the organization of the conference, although he was willing to attend and speak.

-speaksuffix

uk / -spiːk/ us / -spiːk/ informal mainly disapproving

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

"speak" in American English

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speakverb

us /spik/ past tense spoke /spoʊk/ , past participle spoken /ˈspoʊ·kən/

speak verb (SAY WORDS)

[ I/T ] to say words, to use the voice, or to have a conversation with someone:

[ I ] I heard someone speaking in the hallway.
[ I ] Please speak louder.
[ I ] "I’ll never speak to you again," he said angrily.
[ T ] No one spoke a word (= No one said anything).
[ I ] She spoke in a whisper (= very quietly).

[ I/T ] Speaking is used with adverbs ending in -ly to show that you are talking from a particular point of view:

[ I ] Generally speaking, this is what happens when you see a nutritionist.

speak verb (KNOW A LANGUAGE)

[ T ] to talk in a language:

How many languages do you speak?
He speaks fluent Italian.
When I arrived in Canada, I didn’t speak a word of English (= I did not know any English).

speak verb (FORMAL TALK)

[ I ] to give a formal talk:

Will you be speaking at the conference?
Ted will speak about careers in education.

speak verb (SUGGEST)

[ I/T ] to show or express something without using words:

[ T ] Her face spoke volumes (= showed clearly what she thought).

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

"-speak" in Business English

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the special language used in a particular subject area or business:

business-speak
management-speak

(Definition of “-speak” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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