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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The book presents some of the seminal documents from the creation and evolution of NASA over the last six decades. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "On NASA’s birthday, a reminder that we can thank Nixon for the agency," 1 Oct. 2018 The result is a seminal document of the civil rights movement and perhaps the most eloquent defense of direct action in the face of injustice ever written. Michael Hiltzik,, "Martin Luther King Jr. had a few words to say about calls for 'civility'," 26 June 2018 Turrell, a pioneer in manipulating natural and electric light as a medium, is one of the seminal figures of Southern California’s Light and Space movement. Jay Cheshes, WSJ, "James Turrell’s New Masterpiece in the Desert," 14 Jan. 2019 Not until the last few chapters does Santopietro finally try to make a definitive case for the importance of this seminal American novel. New York Times, "Lots of People Love ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Roxane Gay Isn’t One of Them.," 18 June 2018 Hatchet’ Hatchet, the seminal 1987 young-adult novel by Gary Paulsen, is about a 13-year-old boy named Brian whose bush plane crashes somewhere in Canada’s North Woods. Megan Michelson, Outside Online, "Live the Adventures from Your Favorite Books and Movies," 6 June 2018 Atwood’s seminal dystopian novel, published in 1985, examines a world in which women are removed from the workplace and, in some cases, forced to bear children for wealthy couples. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "Elisabeth Moss Quotes The Handmaid's Tale Writer Margaret Atwood in Golden Globes Speech," 7 Jan. 2018 In celebration of Doom’s 25th anniversary, one of its co-creators has announced a new level pack for the seminal first-person shooter (via Polygon). Jon Porter, The Verge, "Doom is getting a 25th anniversary mod from the game’s co-creator," 11 Dec. 2018 That collection was a seminal one for the Great Leggings-As-Pants Comeback, encouraging styling people everywhere to wear their black leggings under dresses, tunics, and so on. Amy Hou, Glamour, "The Black Leggings I Never Hesitate to Wear As Pants," 4 Dec. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about seminal

Statistics for seminal

Last Updated

5 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for seminal

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for seminal



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 \

Medical Definition of seminal

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on seminal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with seminal

Nglish: Translation of seminal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of seminal for Arabic Speakers

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).


to deny responsibility for

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!