com·​mence kə-ˈmen(t)s How to pronounce commence (audio)
commenced; commencing

transitive verb

: to enter upon : begin
commence proceedings

intransitive verb

: to have or make a beginning : start
chiefly British : to take a degree at a university
commencer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for commence

begin, commence, start, initiate, inaugurate, usher in mean to take the first step in a course, process, or operation.

begin, start, and commence are often interchangeable.

begin, opposed to end, is the most general.

begin a trip
began dancing

start, opposed to stop, applies especially to first actions, steps, or stages.

the work started slowly

commence can be more formal or bookish than begin or start.

commence firing
commenced a conversation

initiate implies taking a first step in a process or series that is to continue.

initiated diplomatic contacts

inaugurate suggests a beginning of some formality or notion of significance.

the discovery of penicillin inaugurated a new era in medicine

usher in is somewhat less weighty than inaugurate.

ushered in a period of economic decline

Examples of commence in a Sentence

Dear God, I thought, I've been infected by an earworm. My friend the Longhair says that's what you call songs that burrow into your head and commence chewing your brains. Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly, 24 Apr./1 May 2009
He thereupon commenced giving me this fantastically boring lecture about how the only reason I want a stuffed chicken is because they look so good in a shop window, and that the moment I received one I'd start dreaming up ways to ditch it. Douglas Coupland, Generation X, 1991
The policy would commence not only with the limiting of permits for the building of hotels and boats but with supervision—through expert architectural advice—of the construction of these boats and hotels … William Styron, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, (1953) 1982
"Why shoot, I thought you wanted to be a lawyer, you've already commenced going to court." The ladies laughed again. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960
I have commenced two letters to send you before this, both of which displeased me before I got half done, and so I tore them up. Abraham Lincoln, letter, 4 May 1837
The festivities will commence with a parade. Their contract commences in January. The court commenced criminal proceedings. The country has commenced preparations for war. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Ponant This posh French line commences its 2024 Kimberley season in April, on board 184-passenger Le Lapérouse and 184-passenger Le Jacques-Cartier. Janice Wald Henderson, Travel + Leisure, 17 Nov. 2023 In 2014, the Obama Administration commenced a review of its hostage guidelines. Joel Simon, The New Yorker, 16 Nov. 2023 Principle photography commenced that July and filming officially wrapped in January 2023. Skyler Caruso, Peoplemag, 15 Nov. 2023 The construction on East End Studios Sunnyside commences following the end of both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which shut down the film and TV industry for months, and just after construction began on Sunset Pier 94 Studios in Manhattan. Jaden Thompson, Variety, 15 Nov. 2023 As business leaders commence budgeting and planning for 2024, securing hybrid cloud infrastructure will likely remain a top priority—yet it will also be closely scrutinized for cost efficiencies. Shane Buckley, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 After Arizona State eventually surged to a 26-10 lead, Neuheisel commenced the final comeback with another touchdown pass to Dorrell on fourth down. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2023 After dinner, the hotel’s holiday programming will commence, including the opening of its ice skating rink, holiday lights and more. Maura Fox, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Nov. 2023 Putin sought to remind both Biden and Zelensky that Russia intended to influence events in Ukraine: beginning in mid-March of 2021, Russia commenced new military exercises and began to move additional forces to Crimea and to its border with eastern Ukraine. Foreign Affairs, 6 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'commence.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English comencen, from Anglo-French comencer, from Vulgar Latin *cominitiare, from Latin com- + Late Latin initiare to begin, from Latin, to initiate

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of commence was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near commence

Cite this Entry

“Commence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


com·​mence kə-ˈmen(t)s How to pronounce commence (audio)
commenced; commencing
: to bring or come into activity, being, or operation : begin, start
commence firing
commencer noun

Middle English comencen "to begin," from early French comencer (same meaning), probably from a Latin word cominitiare "to begin," from com- "with, together" and initiare "to begin" — related to initiate

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