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 Rita Levi-Montalcini, his colleague at the time, had made a seminal discovery of a protein known as nerve growth factor, which stimulated the growth of nerve cells in laboratory mice. Matt Schudel,, "Stanley Cohen, Nobel Prize-winning scientist who studied cellular growth, dies at 97," 9 Feb. 2020 If Negro Life at the South is a seminal antebellum picture, Homer’s The Gulf Stream is a valedictory. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "To the 1619 Project: Use More Art, Less Fake History," 25 Jan. 2020 Yet that seminal annoyance in my twenties marked an awakening to word-as-contagion. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Lefty Lingo," 25 Nov. 2019 Taylor’s area round victory is a seminal moment in a decade of high turnover at Katy ISD’s second oldest high school football program. Nate Kotisso, Houston Chronicle, "Katy Taylor rides its defense to regional semifinals," 25 Nov. 2019 Six years later, while working on a new machine called Atlas, Mr. Brooker realized another concept that would become seminal in the long history of computer programming., "NEW YORK — Tony Brooker, the mathematician and computer scientist who designed the programming language for the world’s first commercial computer, died Nov. 20 at a nursing home in Hexham, England. He was 94.," 19 Dec. 2019 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

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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Last Updated

19 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Seminal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 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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