Meaning, sense, acceptation, signification, significance, import are comparable when they denote the idea which something (as a word, a passage, a facial expression, an action, or a situation) conveys to the mind or is intended to convey to the mind.
Meaning, the general term, may be used interchangeably with any of the remaining terms; it may be used of whatever can convey information when properly interpreted and therefore is not only applicable to language and expressions or gestures but to such more cryptic things as symbols and works of art.
Sense (see also SENSE 2 ) denotes either the meaning or, more often, one of the specific or particular meanings, of a word or phrase, or sometimes of an allegory.
More abstractly, it refers to intelligibility in general.
Acceptation (see also ACCEPTANCE ) differs from sense as denoting a meaning of a term chiefly in its stress upon the actual use of that sense or upon its acceptance by a large number of writers and speakers.
Signification and significance (see signify under MEAN 2 ); (see significance under IMPORTANCE ) are often used interchangeably in spite of the fact that they can be carefully differentiated in their meanings.
Signification applies specifically to the established meaning of a term, a symbol, or a character, or to an established sense of a word; it usually implies that when a particular term or symbol or character is used only such an established idea is evoked in the mind of informed persons.
Significance, on the other hand, applies specifically to the covert as distinguished from the established or the ostensible meaning of something; it may from its other sense (see IMPORTANCE ) carry a connotation of weight or moment.
Import (see also IMPORTANCE ), like significance, may imply momentousness, but in contrast with that term, and like signification, it denotes the idea or the impression conveyed or to be conveyed to the mind by the medium of words.