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noun (1)

lem·​ma ˈle-mə How to pronounce lemma (audio)
plural lemmas or lemmata ˈle-mə-tə How to pronounce lemma (audio)
: an auxiliary proposition used in the demonstration of another proposition
: 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
: a glossed word or phrase


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noun (2)

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

Examples of lemma in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Between the ages of 20 and 60, the average person learns 6,000 extra lemmas, or about one new lemma every 2 days. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 25 Feb. 2024 In Schwartz’s solution to the Halpern-Weaver conjecture, the T-pattern lemma is a critical component. Rachel Crowell, Scientific American, 12 Sep. 2023 Because Sperner’s lemma! Ben Brubaker, Quanta Magazine, 25 Jan. 2023 As a result, mathematicians tended to keep their discoveries to themselves, deploying their theorems, corollaries and lemmas only to win intellectual battles. Marc-Olivier Renou, Scientific American, 13 Mar. 2023 In the 1970s, Lovász collaborated with Erdős to devise a complementary technique, called the Lovász local lemma, that works for proving the existence of graphs that are very rare. Quanta Magazine, 17 Mar. 2021 The consequence of this lemma is that any object in any category is entirely determined by its relation to the other objects in the category as encoded by the transformations to or from this object. Emily Riehl, Scientific American, 17 Sep. 2021 While working on one of them, Morel realized her proof called for a lemma — a type of short steppingstone result — that mathlib didn’t have. Quanta Magazine, 1 Oct. 2020

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

Noun (1)

1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1906, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lemma was in 1570

Dictionary Entries Near lemma

Cite this Entry

“Lemma.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lemma. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

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