Strong’s Greek Dictionary: (mode of) discourse, i.e. “dialect”: language, tongue.
Glossa (GLOSS-uh) A Greek word meaning “tongue” or “language.”
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: Glossa: 1. The tongue, a member of the body, the organ of speech.
2. A tongue, i. e. the language used by a particular people in distinction from that of other nations.
Derived from two Greek words: glossa (meaning language or tongue) and lalia (meaning talk or speech). In the purest sense, it would refer to speaking in a foreign language. Today, the term is used by theologians to refer to the practice of speaking or praying in what is professed to be a heavenly or spiritual language (ecstatic utterances as in the modern tongues movement).
Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “Profuse and often emotionally-charged speech that mimics coherent speech but is usually unintelligible to the listener and is uttered in some states of religious ecstasy.”
Derived from two Greek words: xenos (meaning foreigner) and glossa. Refers to the phenomenon in which someone can speak an actual foreign language that he never learned. It can be understood by another person who knows that language. It is intelligible speech.
It is important to understand the definition of the word “tongues” as translated from the original Greek manuscripts. Much false doctrine has been derived from faulty understanding of the language of the Bible in translation and also from taking scripture out of context. In every case in the book of Acts and 1 Corinthians when the word glossa is used, as it refers to speaking in tongues, it means an understandable language. It never refers to unintelligible speech or the modern use of glossolalia.
On the day of Pentecost, men of God spoke earthly languages to foreigners in the foreigner’s earthly language. This was an example of what is referred to as xenoglossia. It is important to note that the translation of “tongue” comes from both dialektos and glossa in the Greek and was used interchangeably, making it obvious that the disciples were speaking in known languages other than the language native to them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues [glossa].
Acts 2:6 …every man heard them speak in his own language [dialektos].
Acts 2:8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue [dialektos], wherein we were born?
Acts 2:11 …we do hear them speak in our tongues [glossa] the wonderful works of God.
The gift of tongues, as experienced on Pentecost, brings clarity as the scripture is studied. It defines the gift, the meaning, and application of “tongues.” Never once in the scripture does it refer to the ecstatic babbling which is practiced around the world. In this passage in Acts, “tongues speaking” is observed in its pure, unperverted form as God gave it.