noun (1)
lem·​ma | \ ˈle-mə How to pronounce lemma (audio) \
plural lemmas or lemmata\ ˈle-​mə-​tə How to pronounce lemmata (audio) \

Definition of lemma

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an auxiliary proposition used in the demonstration of another proposition
2 : the argument or theme of a composition prefixed as a title or introduction also : the heading or theme of a comment or note on a text
3 : a glossed word or phrase


noun (2)

Definition of lemma (Entry 2 of 2)

: the lower of the two bracts enclosing the flower in the spikelet of grasses

First Known Use of lemma

Noun (1)

1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1906, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for lemma

Noun (1)

Latin, from Greek lēmma thing taken, assumption, from lambanein to take — more at latch

Noun (2)

Greek, husk, from lepein to peel — more at leper

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about lemma

Time Traveler for lemma

Time Traveler

The first known use of lemma was in 1570

See more words from the same year

Statistics for lemma

Cite this Entry

“Lemma.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lemma. Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on lemma

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with lemma

Comments on lemma

What made you want to look up lemma? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

July 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • papercraft sunset
  • Which is a synonym of mien?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!