sem·​i·​nal | \ ˈse-mə-nᵊl How to pronounce seminal (audio) \

Definition of seminal

1 : of, relating to, or consisting of seed or semen seminal discharge
2 : containing or contributing the seeds of later development : creative, original a seminal book

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Other Words from seminal

seminally \ ˈse-​mə-​nᵊl-​ē How to pronounce seminally (audio) \ adverb

Examples of seminal in a Sentence

Kandel was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2000 for his seminal observation that it was in the action of the synapses between cells that memory existed, not in the cells themselves, and that a molecule called cyclic AMP was what allowed cells to retain memory over the long term. — Michael Greenberg, New York Review of Books, 4 Dec. 2008 Writer Susan Sontag died December 28 at age 71 after a long battle with cancer. She left behind an impressive body of fiction and criticism, including her seminal 1960s essays "Notes on Camp" and "Against Interpretation." — Allan Gurganus, Advocate, 1 Feb. 2005 I wonder if the curators who organized "Matisse Picasso" ever asked themselves why it was that Alfred H. Barr Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art and the guiding spirit behind the museum's seminal exhibitions of both Picasso and Matisse, never mounted a show like the one that has now arrived at MoMA QNS. Such an exhibition might seem to be logical, almost inevitable for the Museum of Modern Art. — Jed Perl, New Republic, 3 Mar. 2003
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Recent Examples on the Web Another seminal moment on the tour itinerary involved 1979’s Formosa Incident, when authorities arrested protesters including key opposition leaders. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "Hong Kongers hungry for democracy are traveling to Taiwan’s elections for a taste of it," 10 Jan. 2020 Founded in 1944, Centre d’Art was the historical leader in recognition of Haiti’s artists and the promulgation of their art internationally, starting with seminal acquisitions by New York’s Museum of Modern Art in the 1950s. Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Magazine, "To safeguard cultural heritage, a massive Smithsonian-led cultural rescue operation can now be mobilized to help countries recover from disaster," 10 Jan. 2020 In fact, the mechanism at work is strikingly similar to a process described by the late Alan Turing in a seminal 1952 paper. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Clustering pattern of Azteca ant colonies may be due to a Turing mechanism," 2 Jan. 2020 For Indians who grew up on tales of Partition, this page-turner is also seminal reading. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "The best books Quartz India read in 2019," 29 Dec. 2019 Among pastors, political strategists and even the author of the magazine piece, Mark Galli, there was little belief the editorial would be a seminal moment of revolt against the president. Author: Josh Dawsey, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump lashes out at evangelical magazine that supports his impeachment," 21 Dec. 2019 The author, a lifelong Detroit resident, renders an enlightening and often surprising story of the city’s seminal moments and pivotal turning points in the history of the Motor City. John J. Kelly, Detroit Free Press, "Holiday gift guide 2019: The best books that will inspire and delight readers," 7 Dec. 2019 The late healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt, and his colleagues saw the consequences clearly in his seminal paper on the fundamental malady of our system. Los Angeles Times, "Column: America’s healthcare system is failing because competition is disappearing," 13 Oct. 2019 Hopkins colleagues said his seminal paper, originally published in the Journal of Pathology in 1999, led to the development of a vaccine for human papillomavirus. Jacques Kelly,, "Dr. Keerti Shah, Johns Hopkins scientist who helped create a cervical cancer vaccine, dies," 27 July 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for seminal

Middle English, from Latin seminalis, from semin-, semen seed — more at semen

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Time Traveler for seminal

Time Traveler

The first known use of seminal was in the 14th century

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Statistics for seminal

Last Updated

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Seminal.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 27 January 2020.

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More Definitions for seminal


How to pronounce seminal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of seminal

formal : having a strong influence on ideas, works, events, etc., that come later : very important and influential
medical : of or containing semen


sem·​i·​nal | \ ˈsem-ən-ᵊl How to pronounce seminal (audio) \

Medical Definition of seminal

: of, relating to, or consisting of seed or semen seminal discharge

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Comments on seminal

What made you want to look up seminal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that suddenly gains wealth or power

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