em·​pha·​sis | \ ˈem(p)-fə-səs How to pronounce emphasis (audio) \
plural emphases\ ˈem(p)-​fə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce emphasis (audio) \

Definition of emphasis

1a : force or intensity of expression that gives impressiveness or importance to something
b : a particular prominence given in reading or speaking to one or more words or syllables
2 : special consideration of or stress or insistence on something

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Examples of emphasis in a Sentence

Our candidate's plan has a different emphasis. a prep school with a long-established emphasis on sports
Recent Examples on the Web The emphasis here is on ensuring the region’s tulip industry can continue to thrive—it was launched in part as a response to tourists coming to take photos in the fields and thus destroying them. Liam Hess, Vogue, 11 May 2022 The emphasis is on tequila and mezcal, with a variety of margaritas. Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant, 7 May 2022 The emphasis here is very much on brows and lashes. Tiffany Dodson, Harper's BAZAAR, 6 May 2022 The emphasis this spring wasn’t so much establishing a starting lineup – that was well known heading into the offseason – but establishing depth. oregonlive, 6 May 2022 Whoop's overlapping graphs, green-and-red up/down trend arrows, and emphasis on numbers are too much to decipher by comparison. Corey Gaskin, Ars Technica, 30 Apr. 2022 The emphasis is on encouraging global development, whilst providing a useful benchmark on what makes happy people and a healthy society. Alex Ledsom, Forbes, 17 Apr. 2022 The emphasis on mental health is a very modern approach to caring for war refugees. Dana Bash And Abbie Sharpe, CNN, 10 Apr. 2022 An emphasis on social issues is also evident in other exhibitions. New York Times, 8 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'emphasis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of emphasis

1534, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for emphasis

borrowed from Latin, "use of language to imply more than is actually said, implication" (Late Latin also "appearance," Medieval Latin "prominence of expression, stress"), borrowed from Greek émphasis "appearance in a smooth surface, reflection, outward appearance, setting forth, exposition, significance, force of expression," from empha-, stem in noun derivation of emphaínein "to exhibit, display, indicate," emphaínesthai "to be reflected, become visible" (from em- en- entry 2 + phaínein "to bring to light, cause to appear," and phaínesthai "to become visible, appear") + -sis -sis — more at fantasy entry 1, phase entry 1

Note: Greek pha- can be a stem in nominal derivation of both phaínein and the verb phēmí, phánai "to speak, say," so that prefixed words formed with it may have senses relating to both appearance and to speech or language, as is the case with émphasis. For the underlying relation between the two verbs see the note at ban entry 1.

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The first known use of emphasis was in 1534

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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Emphasis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emphasis. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for emphasis


em·​pha·​sis | \ ˈem-fə-səs How to pronounce emphasis (audio) \
plural emphases\ -​ˌsēz \

Kids Definition of emphasis

1 : a forcefulness in the way something is said or written that gives it special attention or importance
2 : special force given to one or more words or syllables in speaking or reading In the word "vacation," the emphasis is on the second syllable.
3 : special attention or importance given to something

More from Merriam-Webster on emphasis

Nglish: Translation of emphasis for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of emphasis for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about emphasis


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