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Signifier vs. Signified: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Published on February 2, 2024
The signifier is the form of a word or symbol, while the signified is the concept or meaning that the word or symbol represents.

Key Differences

The signifier in linguistics is the physical form of a word or symbol, such as its sound or written appearance. The signified is the mental concept that the signifier refers to or evokes.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024
In semiotics, the study of signs, the signifier is the tangible aspect of a sign (like the word "dog"), while the signified is the idea or concept it represents (the animal, dog).
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024
The relationship between signifier and signified is arbitrary and culturally determined, where the signifier does not naturally connect to the signified but is agreed upon within a language or culture.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024
The meaning of a signifier (the form) can change over time, altering what is signified (the concept). Conversely, the same concept (signified) can be represented by different signifiers in different languages or dialects.
Harlon Moss
Feb 02, 2024
In everyday communication, a signifier (such as a spoken word) conveys a message, and the signified is the meaning understood by the listener.
Janet White
Feb 02, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Physical form of a word or symbol
Concept or meaning represented
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

Role in Semiotics

Tangible aspect of a sign
Idea or concept conveyed
Huma Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

Relationship

Arbitrary link to the signified
Dependent on cultural or linguistic context
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

Variation

Can change form while retaining meaning
Can be represented by different signifiers
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

Example

Word "cat" (sound or written)
The animal cat (concept)
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024
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Signifier and Signified Definitions

Signifier

The sound or appearance of a word.
In 'tree', the signifier is the spoken or written word itself.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Signified

The idea or concept a word represents.
The signified of 'sun' is the celestial body we see in the sky.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Signifier

Can change over time or context.
Slang words are signifiers that evolve rapidly.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 09, 2024

Signified

Remains constant even if the signifier changes.
The concept of love is a signified that remains constant across languages.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 09, 2024

Signifier

A symbol without inherent meaning.
Alphabets are signifiers forming meaningful words.
Janet White
Jan 09, 2024

Signified

Varies with cultural interpretation.
In different cultures, a white dress signifies different concepts.
Huma Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Signifier

Varies across languages and cultures.
The signifier for water changes in different languages.
Harlon Moss
Jan 09, 2024

Signified

The meaning behind a symbol.
For 'rose', the signified is the flower known for its fragrance and beauty.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 09, 2024

Signifier

The tangible aspect of a sign in semiotics.
In a stop sign, the red color and octagonal shape are signifiers.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Signified

The conceptual part of a sign.
In traffic lights, the color red's signified is 'stop'.
Janet White
Jan 09, 2024

Signifier

One that signifies.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signified

The concept that a signifier denotes.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signifier

(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).
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signified

The concept or idea evoked by a sign.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signifier

Something or someone that signifies, makes something more significant or important.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signified

Simple past tense and past participle of signify
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signifier

(cartomancy) A card representing a querent, question, or situation.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signified

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
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signifier

(linguistics) The sound of a spoken word or string of letters on a page that a person recognizes as a sign.
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

Signifier

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
Sumera Saeed
Jan 05, 2024

FAQs

What's an example of a signified?

The concept of freedom that a flag may represent.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 02, 2024

Can the signifier and signified be the same?

No, the signifier is the form, while the signified is the meaning.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

How is the signifier used in language?

It's used as the tangible part of speech or writing.
Janet White
Feb 02, 2024

What does signified mean?

Signified refers to the concept or meaning a word or symbol represents.
Huma Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

What is a signifier?

A signifier is the physical form of a word or symbol.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

Are signifiers universal?

No, they vary across languages and cultures.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

Can a signifier have multiple signifieds?

Yes, depending on context and interpretation.
Janet White
Feb 02, 2024

How does context affect the signified?

Context can change the meaning or concept understood.
Harlon Moss
Feb 02, 2024

Can the signified change over time?

Yes, as cultural and linguistic contexts evolve.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 02, 2024

Is the signifier always vocal or written?

It can also be non-verbal, like symbols or gestures.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 02, 2024

Is the relationship between signifier and signified fixed?

No, it's arbitrary and culturally defined.
Harlon Moss
Feb 02, 2024

Can one concept have multiple signifiers?

Yes, across different languages and dialects.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

How does semiotics study signifier and signified?

By analyzing the relationship between symbols and meanings.
Aimie Carlson
Feb 02, 2024

Can a signified be completely objective?

Often, it's subject to subjective interpretation.
Janet White
Feb 02, 2024

Are new signifiers constantly created?

Yes, especially with language evolution and cultural changes.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

How important is the signifier in communication?

It's crucial as it conveys the intended meaning.
Janet White
Feb 02, 2024

Can misunderstandings arise from signifier-signified relationships?

Yes, especially if the cultural context is not shared.
Sumera Saeed
Feb 02, 2024

Are emojis signifiers?

Yes, they are modern signifiers in digital communication.
Harlon Moss
Feb 02, 2024

Does a signified exist without a signifier?

The concept can exist, but it needs a signifier for communication.
Harlon Moss
Feb 02, 2024

Can the same signifier have different signifieds in different cultures?

Yes, cultural contexts greatly influence meaning.
Janet White
Feb 02, 2024
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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