sem·i·nal | \ ˈse-mə-nᵊl \

Definition of seminal 

1 : of, relating to, or consisting of seed or semen

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 \ 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

Herbert Spencer Jennings, an influential zoologist and early geneticist, made the same argument in his seminal 1906 book Behavior of the Lower Organisms. Katia Moskvitch, WIRED, "Slime Molds Remember—But Do They Learn?," 14 July 2018 Among those releases was Isaac Hayes’ seminal album Hot Buttered Soul. Gail Mitchell, Billboard, "Stax Legend Al Bell on Black Music's Living Legacy and Power: 'My Life's Mission Is to Make Sure It Doesn't Die'," 6 July 2018 In a seminal book about Western attitudes to mortality published in 1974, Philippe Ariès, a French historian, argued that before the 18th century death was rarely resisted. The Economist, "Life is too precious to worry about death," 19 Apr. 2018 With producer Tony Visconti - best known as the man who worked on David Bowie's seminal 1970s albums - the band had two hit albums and songs played for a new generation on MTV. Marc Bona,, "Rubber City Beer Fest breweries list released," 12 Apr. 2018 And then Basualdo buckled in and led the successful effort to land the seminal work. Stephan Salisbury,, "He's shaping the Philadelphia Museum of Art's future - and has a past you wouldn't believe," 9 July 2018 The Transformation of Virginia 1740-1790’ by Rhys Isaac, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in History for this seminal work. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Power Rankings: Not so peachy primaries," 9 July 2018 In his seminal Letter on Toleration (1689), John Locke insisted that Muslims and all others who believed in God be tolerated in England. Elahe Izadi, Washington Post, "Thomas Jefferson and the long history of defending Muslim rights," 26 June 2018 Now, a decade later—approaching the 25th anniversary of the release of the seminal Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album—RZA has relaunched the line, with the help of Live Nation, and designed an exclusive 10-piece capsule collection for Barneys. Rachel Marlowe, Vogue, "RZA on Hip-Hop Style, Hypebeast Culture, and the Return of Wu Wear," 5 June 2018

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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Statistics for seminal

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for seminal

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

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More Definitions for seminal



English Language Learners Definition of seminal

: 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 \

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).


occurring twice a year or every two years

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