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"What we've got here is a failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach." (Strother Martin as Captain in Cool Hand Luke, 1967)


The process of sending and receiving messages through verbal or nonverbal means--speech (oral communication), writing (written communication), signs, signals, or behavior. Adjectives: communicative and communicational.

"All communication involves faith," says literary theorist Terry Eagleton. "[I]ndeed, some linguisticians hold that the potential obstacles to acts of verbal understanding are so many and diverse that it is a minor miracle that they take place at all" (Reason, Faith, and Revolution, 2009). See Examples and Observations, below.

See also:



From the Latin, "common"


  • "The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it."
    (Edward R. Murrow, October 1964, quoted by Alexander Kendrick in Prime Time: Life of Edward R. Murrow. Littlehampton, 1970)

  • "[P]erhaps the most important single change in human consciousness in the last century, and especially in the American consciousness, has been the multiplying of the means and forms of what we call 'communication.'"
    (Daniel Boorstin, Democracy and Its Discontents. Random House, 1974)

  • Rhetorical Communication
    "The importance of rhetorical communication has been recognized for thousands of years. The oldest essay ever discovered, written about 3000 B.C., consists of advice on how to speak effectively. This essay was inscribed on a fragment of parchment addressed to Kagemni, the eldest son of the Pharaoh Huni. Similarly, the oldest extant book is a treatise on effective communication. This book, known as the Precepts, was composed in Egpt about 2675 B.C. by Ptah-Hotep. It was written for the guidance of the Pharaoh's son. . . . [T]hese works are significant because they establish the historical fact that interest in rhetorical communication is nearly 5000 years old."
    (James C. McCroskey, An Introduction to Rhetorical Communication. Prentice Hall, 1986)

  • Basic Components
    "[The] various communication situations share some basic components: a context; a source or sender; a receiver; messages; noise; and channels, or modes."
    (M. Redmond, Communication: Theories and Applications. Houghton, 2000)

  • Human Communication
    "It is the ability to communicate by using words that separates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom. Our verbal ability also enables us to learn from the past--to benefit from the experience of others."
    (Scott Ober, Contemporary Business Communication. Houghton, 2001)

    "Human communication occurs on the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and public levels. Intrapersonal communication is communicating with yourself. It encompasses such activities as thought processing, personal decision making, listening, and determining self-concept. Interpersonal communication refers to communication that takes place between two or more persons who establish a communicative relationship. Forms of interpersonal communication include face-to-face or mediated conversations, interviews, and small-group discussions. Public communication is characterized by a speaker's sending a message to an audience. It may be direct, such as a face-to-face message delivered by a speaker to an audience, or indirect, such as a message relayed over radio or television."
    (R. Berko, et al., Communicating: A Social and Career Focus. Houghton, 2007)

  • Animal Communication
    "If we limit ourselves to animal language alone, cases of remarkable capacities--verging on the human--are legion. For example, vervet monkeys have four acoustically distinct kinds of predator-alarm calls, evoked by leopards, eagles, pythons and baboons. And even non-primates come close to human language. Prairie dogs--not normally considered among the brightest bulbs in the animal chandelier--have different alarm calls for humans, coyotes, domestic dogs and red-tailed hawks. Moreover, they employ modifiers that even specify the size and shape of an individual predator.

    "Research by Irene Pepperberg on her pet African gray parrot strongly suggests that he could understand and employ nouns, verbs and adjectives, as well as sophisticated concepts such as 'different.' And the brilliant border collie Rico not only learned more than 200 distinct words but, when asked to identify an object that he didn't know amid several other items, all of which he had previously identified, he correctly chose the new and unknown object--a mental feat that is not only remarkable but also replicable and that cannot be explained except by granting this animal extraordinarily complex mental agility."
    (David Barash, "The LEap From Beast to Man." The Wall Street Journal, November 16-17, 2013)

  • The Lighter Side of Communication
    "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."
    (attributed to George Bernard Shaw)

    "The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said."
    (attributed to Peter F. Drucker)

    "The longest and most difficult distance in transmitting information is the last half inch between a man's ear and his brain."


Pronunciation: ke-MYONN-eh-KAY-shun

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