semantics

noun

se·​man·​tics si-ˈman-tiks How to pronounce semantics (audio)
plural in form but singular or plural in construction
1
: the study of meanings:
a
: the historical and psychological study and the classification of changes in the signification of words or forms viewed as factors in linguistic development
b(1)
(2)
: a branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they refer to and including theories of denotation, extension, naming, and truth
2
3
a
: the meaning or relationship of meanings of a sign or set of signs
especially : connotative meaning
b
: the language used (as in advertising or political propaganda) to achieve a desired effect on an audience especially through the use of words with novel or dual meanings

Examples of semantics in a Sentence

More than semantics is at stake. In the case of obesity, the debate has heightened in the wake of major diet-pill recalls last year. Many new diet nostrums are in various stages of testing, and the FDA's bar for approving new drugs is lower for disease treatments than for other problems, such as baldness or skin wrinkles. Laura Johannes et al., Wall Street Journal, 9 Feb. 1998
Over the years Wierzbicka has gained a distinct reputation for playing hardball with others in the linguistics community. Though her rhetoric can be rather scathing at times, there is no question that her studies in semantics are a force to be reckoned with. Joseph Hilferty, Word, April 1997
Recent Examples on the Web There is a plethora of specialized tools that help marketers pick the right semantics and keywords, extract analytics on customer behavior, and even make viable predictions and automate several processes. Nataliya Andreychuk, Forbes, 24 Jan. 2023 Some may argue that this is more of comeback than a trend, per se, but that’s semantics in my humble opinion. Meg Donohue, ELLE, 6 Jan. 2023 Imagine a weird, unholy synthesizer whose buttons sample textual information, style, and semantics. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 7 Dec. 2022 In a typical disaster movie, the protagonists would be getting the hell out of dodge instead of debating semantics. Joey Morona, cleveland, 29 Nov. 2022 Getting to know the syntax and semantics of another language, forming new grammar structures and acquiring vocabulary all require immense and consistent mental effort. Carla Delgado, Discover Magazine, 19 Oct. 2022 The district has been under fire from some community members, who have taken to social media, saying the district is using semantics to avoid saying the book is banned. Dallas News, 24 Aug. 2022 Regardless of semantics, Fox looked gorgeous in a lavender-grey smoky eye, an exaggerated cat eye and fluttery lashes, all essential elements of her go-to signature look. Kara Nesvig, Allure, 30 Dec. 2022 Extreme projects in cultural relativism, and fixation on semantics, tells us more about the psychology of WEIRD people than anything else. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 24 July 2010 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

semant(ic) + -ics, in part after French sémantique

First Known Use

1874, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of semantics was in 1874

Dictionary Entries Near semantics

Cite this Entry

“Semantics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/semantics. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

semantics

noun singular or plural
se·​man·​tics si-ˈmant-iks How to pronounce semantics (audio)
: the study of meanings and changes of meaning
semanticist
si-ˈmant-ə-səst
noun

Medical Definition

semantics

noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction
se·​man·​tics si-ˈmant-iks How to pronounce semantics (audio)
: the study of meanings:
a
: the historical and psychological study and the classification of changes in the signification of words or forms viewed as factors in linguistic development
b(1)
(2)
: a branch of semiotic dealing with the relations between signs and what they refer to and including theories of denotation, extension, naming, and truth

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