semi·​co·​lon | \ ˈse-mē-ˌkō-lən How to pronounce semicolon (audio) , ˈse-ˌmī-, -mi- \

Definition of semicolon

: a punctuation mark; used chiefly in a coordinating function between major sentence elements (such as independent clauses of a compound sentence)

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Did You Know?

The semicolon was introduced into modern type by an Italian printer around 1566. But since it's actually the same symbol as the ancient Greek question mark, it's older than the colon (:), which first appears around 1450. Don't mix the two up. A colon introduces something: usually a list, sometimes a statement. A semicolon separates two independent but related clauses; it may also replace the comma to separate items in a complicated list.

Examples of semicolon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For two weeks, 196 countries had huddled in countless meetings, wrangling over dense pages of text, scrutinizing every semicolon. Fiona Harvey, Wired, "Can the Paris Agreement Still Avert Climate Chaos?," 26 Dec. 2020 Using the tools provided, fans can put together a little woven mat, adorned with a white semicolon as a tribute to the album's name. Natalie Morin,, "Seventeen Play 29 Questions: Dance Edition," 23 Oct. 2020 The poet Ron Padgett pointed out to me the technical shrewdness of the compound last line: the all-time best use of a semicolon in place of a line break. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The Art of Dying," 16 Dec. 2019 As previously explained, the semicolon serves as an important mental health symbol, and the meaning behind the tattoo design was largely spearheaded by the Semicolon Tattoo Project. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Selena Gomez Revealed the “13 Reasons Why” Symbol Hidden in Her Puma Collection," 6 Dec. 2019 Isn’t that an excuse to haul out the heavy equipment and promote the commas to semicolons? Mary Norris, The New Yorker, "Should the Parthenon Marbles Be Returned to Greece?," 22 Nov. 2019 The text is repetitive but disciplined, riddled with voids and awash with semicolons, which often begin and end a chapter; Steinberg can go pages without a period. Lidija Haas, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 28 Oct. 2019 Fans will spot things like like the number 92 for the year she was born, semicolon tattoo from her 13RW days, and an arrow. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Selena Gomez Secretly Hid a "13 Reasons Why" Reference in Her New SG x Puma Clothing Collection," 3 Dec. 2019 Currently, Windows 10 users can open the emoji window by typing WIN and the semicolon (;) keys at the same time. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Upcoming Microsoft keyboards will include dedicated Office, emoji shortcut keys," 11 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'semicolon.' 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 semicolon

1644, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for semicolon Time Traveler

The first known use of semicolon was in 1644

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Cite this Entry

“Semicolon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for semicolon



English Language Learners Definition of semicolon

: the punctuation mark; that is used to separate major parts in a sentence and to separate items in a series if the items contain commas


semi·​co·​lon | \ ˈse-mi-ˌkō-lən How to pronounce semicolon (audio) \

Kids Definition of semicolon

: a punctuation mark; that can be used to separate parts of a sentence which need clearer separation than would be shown by a comma, to separate main clauses which have no conjunction between, and to separate phrases and clauses containing commas

More from Merriam-Webster on semicolon

Nglish: Translation of semicolon for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about semicolon

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