Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

". The following are three more specific definitions:
  • In semantics
    Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, such as words, phrases, signs and symbols, and what they stand for, their denotata....

     and discourse analysis
    Discourse analysis
    Discourse analysis , or discourse studies, is a general term for a number of approaches to analyzing written, spoken, signed language use or any significant semiotic event....

    : A generalization of the concept of conversation
    Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette.Conversation analysis is a branch of sociology which studies the structure and organization of human interaction, with a more specific focus on conversational...

     to all modalities and contexts.
  • "The totality of codified linguistic usages attached to a given type of social practice. (E.g.: legal discourse, medical discourse, religious discourse.)"
  • In the work of Michel Foucault
    Michel Foucault
    Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

    , and social theorists inspired by him: "an entity of sequences of signs in that they are enouncements (enoncés)." An enouncement (l'énoncé - often translated as "statement") is not a unity of signs, but an abstract matter that enables signs to assign specific repeatable relations to objects, subjects and other enouncements.

A discourse is "a language or system of representation that has developed socially in order to make and circulate a coherent set of meanings about an important topic area."

John Fiske (1987). Television Culture. New York: Methuen. ISBN 0415039347.

We can no longer maintain any distinction between music and discourse about music, between the supposed object of analysis and the terms of analysis.

Bruce Horner (1999). Discourse. Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture. Malden, Massachusetts. ISBN 0631212639.

It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed (1974), Ch. 3