se·​man·​tics | \ si-ˈman-tiks How to pronounce semantics (audio) \

Definition of semantics

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) : semiotics
(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
3a : 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 Also like language, from the immune system’s perspective, the sequence could also be said to have a kind of semantics. Gregory Barber, Wired, "Can an AI Predict the Language of Viral Mutation?," 14 Jan. 2021 But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed. NBC News, "Covid live updates: Latest news on Covid vaccine rollouts across the U.S.," 18 Dec. 2020 But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed. NBC News, "Covid live updates: Latest news on Covid vaccine rollouts across the U.S.," 18 Dec. 2020 But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed. NBC News, "Covid live updates: Latest news on Covid vaccine rollouts across the U.S.," 18 Dec. 2020 But senior White House officials Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion about semantics, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed. Tim Darnell, ajc, "Georgia nearing 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases," 18 Dec. 2020 But senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed. Jim Salter And Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, chicagotribune.com, "Some states say their Pfizer vaccine allotments were cut for next week: ‘This is disruptive and frustrating’," 17 Dec. 2020 Whether these states are seeing a new wave of cases or just an exacerbation of the original wave, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said is just semantics. Madeline Holcombe, CNN, "In just a week, the fall coronavirus surge added nearly half a million cases to the US total," 27 Oct. 2020 Critics say the administration is falling back on semantics and legal sleight of hand to obscure Pendley's control over an agency that oversees oil and gas drilling, grazing and other activities on vast areas in the U.S. West. Matthew Brown, Star Tribune, "Public lands chief hangs on despite nomination getting nixed," 19 Aug. 2020

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

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First Known Use of semantics

1874, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for semantics

see semantic

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Time Traveler for semantics

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The first known use of semantics was in 1874

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Semantics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/semantics. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for semantics

semantics

noun
How to pronounce semantics (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of semantics

linguistics
: the study of the meanings of words and phrases in language
: the meanings of words and phrases in a particular context

semantics

noun plural but singular or plural in construction
se·​man·​tics | \ si-ˈmant-iks How to pronounce semantics (audio) \

Medical Definition of semantics

: 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) : semiotic
(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

More from Merriam-Webster on semantics

Nglish: Translation of semantics for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about semantics

Comments on semantics

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