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Signifier vs. Signified — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 25, 2023
Signifier is the physical form of a word, image, or sound that represents a concept. Signified is the concept or meaning associated with a signifier, often abstract.
Signifier vs. Signified — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Signifier and Signified


Key Differences

Signifier represents the form, such as a word or image.Signified represents the meaning or concept.
Signifierios Concrete and perceivable.Signified is Abstract and mental.

Comparison Chart


Physical form of a word, image, or sound
Concept or meaning associated with it


Concrete and perceivable
Abstract and mental

Language Dependency

Varies between languages
Less language-dependent


"Cat" as the word representing a feline
The mental concept of a cat

Compare with Definitions


The physical representation of a concept.
In the word 'tree,' 'tree' is the signifier for the concept of a tall, woody plant.


The abstract meaning associated with a signifier.
For 'love,' the signified is the deep emotional affection between people.


The form of a word, image, or sound.
A red traffic light is a signifier of 'stop' in many cultures.


The concept conveyed by a sign.
The signified of a white dove often symbolizes peace and purity.


One that signifies.


The concept that a signifier denotes.


(Linguistics) A linguistic unit or pattern, such as a succession of speech sounds, written symbols, or gestures, that conveys meaning; a linguistic sign. The signifier of the concept "tree" is, in English, the string of speech sounds (t), (r), and (ē); in German, (b), (ou), and (m).


The concept or idea evoked by a sign.


Something or someone that signifies, makes something more significant or important.


Simple past tense and past participle of signify


(cartomancy) A card representing a querent, question, or situation.


The meaning of a word or expression; the way in which a word or expression or situation can be interpreted;
The dictionary gave several senses for the word
In the best sense charity is really a duty
The signifier is linked to the signified


(linguistics) The sound of a spoken word or string of letters on a page that a person recognizes as a sign.


The phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to describe or identify something;
The inflected forms of a word can be represented by a stem and a list of inflections to be attached

Common Curiosities

How do signifiers differ from signifieds?

Signifiers represent the form, while signifieds represent the meaning.

What does "signifier" mean?

A signifier is the physical form representing a concept or meaning.

Can you provide an example of a signifier?

"Tree" is a signifier for the concept of a tall, leafy plant.

Is a signifier language-dependent?

Yes, it can vary between languages.

Are signifiers always words?

No, they can also be images, symbols, or sounds.

Can you give an example of a signified?

The signified of "home" might represent comfort, belonging, and shelter.

Are signifieds universal?

They can be less language-dependent and more abstract than signifiers.

Is there always a one-to-one relationship between signifiers and signifieds?

No, as meanings can vary based on context and interpretation.

What does "signified" refer to?

A signified is the abstract meaning or concept associated with a signifier.

How do signifieds relate to language?

They convey the mental concept behind a word or symbol.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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