semicolon

noun
semi·co·lon | \ˈse-mē-ˌkō-lən, 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

Selena Gomez, Alisha Boe, Tommy Dorfman, and Brandon Flynn are among the thousands of people who wear semicolon tattoos all over the world. refinery29.com, "3 Survivors Share The Meaning Behind Their Semicolon Tattoos," 18 May 2018 Small details like commas and semicolons matter to us. Katie Reilly, Time, "Rod Rosenstein Tells Law Graduates to Fall Back on ‘Your Own Moral Principles’ During Ethical Dilemmas," 11 May 2018 After Selena Gomez and his 13 Reasons Why costars Alisha Boe and Tommy Dorfman got semicolon tattoos, Brandon got matching ink. Hannah Orenstein, Seventeen, "12 Things You Didn't Know About "13 Reasons Why" Actor Brandon Flynn," 17 Apr. 2017 For fun: Kurt Vonnegut said using semicolons was an unnecessary pretension, indulged in only by writers who want to show off their fancy-pants degrees. Rebecca Onion, Slate Magazine, "The Angle: Trump Pink Edition," 3 May 2017 Gomez and two of the cast members from the series recently got matching semicolon tattoos, intended to signify that life goes on after mental illness – an inspiration for the movement known as Project Semicolon. The Washington Post, The Denver Post, "“13 Reasons Why” depicts a graphic suicide; experts say there’s a problem with that," 18 Apr. 2017 After Selena Gomez and his 13 Reasons Why costars Alisha Boe and Tommy Dorfman got semicolon tattoos, Brandon got matching ink. Hannah Orenstein, Seventeen, "12 Things You Didn't Know About "13 Reasons Why" Actor Brandon Flynn," 17 Apr. 2017 Instead of a period, authors use the semicolon to continue a sentence. Mehera Bonner, Marie Claire, "The Important Meaning Behind Selena Gomez's New Semicolon Tattoo," 10 Apr. 2017 The L and the colon/semicolon keys are fine, so my right hand is acid-free, but what explains the left hand? John Kelly, Washington Post, "I know this is going to sound like an odd question: Can you see your nose?," 11 June 2017

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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Statistics for semicolon

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Time Traveler for semicolon

The first known use of semicolon was in 1644

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More Definitions for semicolon

semicolon

noun

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

semicolon

noun
semi·co·lon | \ˈse-mi-ˌkō-lən \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on semicolon

Spanish Central: Translation of semicolon

Nglish: Translation of semicolon for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about semicolon

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