sym·​po·​sium | \ sim-ˈpō-zē-əm How to pronounce symposium (audio) also -zh(ē-)əm \
plural symposia\ sim-​ˈpō-​zē-​ə How to pronounce symposia (audio) , -​zh(ē-​)ə \ or symposiums

Definition of symposium

1a : a convivial party (as after a banquet in ancient Greece) with music and conversation
b : a social gathering at which there is free interchange of ideas
2a : a formal meeting at which several specialists deliver short addresses on a topic or on related topics — compare colloquium
b : a collection of opinions on a subject especially : one published by a periodical

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

It was drinking more than thinking that drew people to the original symposia and that gave us the word symposium. The ancient Greeks would often follow a banquet with a drinking party they called a "symposion." That name came from "sympinein," a verb that combines pinein, meaning "to drink," with the prefix syn-, meaning "together." Originally, English speakers only used "symposium" to refer to such an ancient Greek party, but in the 18th century British gentlemen's clubs started using the word for gatherings in which intellectual conversation was fueled by drinking. By the 19th century, "symposium" had gained the more sober sense we know today, describing meetings in which the focus is more on the exchange of ideas and less on imbibing.

Examples of symposium in a Sentence

Professors and graduate students attended the symposium. recently attended a daylong symposium on new methods of chromatography
Recent Examples on the Web San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills welcomed nearly 1,000 participants to the city’s first-ever domestic violence symposium Thursday, noting that the problem disproportionately affects people of color and indigenous communities throughout the world., "Express Briefing: SpaceX’s Starship poised to launch Texas’ space industry into new era," 30 Oct. 2020 According to the school, more than 2,000 doctors, researchers, public health professionals participated in the symposium. Dennis Pillion |, al, "Fauci tells UAB: We’ll know in December if vaccines are effective," 28 Oct. 2020 Scott spoke during the lunch session of Friday's symposium on the importance of the ongoing protests in Louisville. Sarah Ladd, The Courier-Journal, "Takeaways: University of Kentucky law school symposium dug into Breonna Taylor case," 24 Oct. 2020 About 30 of their Cajun pictures were featured during the collection’s 2009 symposium on Acadiana. John Pope,, "Young photographers captured vanishing Cajun culture during a trip from Chicago in the '70s," 12 Oct. 2020 Schwarz and Chavis were among many speakers at the symposium who sought to make the point that lynching was not simply a means by which a racial majority got rid of minority individuals deemed to have done wrong. Jonathan M. Pitts,, "Maryland conference on lynching finds links to voter suppression, social inequality," 19 Oct. 2020 The symposium, sponsored by the nonprofit Ozone Music Education Foundation, is slated for Saturday, Oct. 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Old Rail Brewing Company, 639 Girod St. in Old Mandeville. Keith Spera,, "Songwriting symposium in Mandeville on Saturday to replace Ozone Music Festival," 14 Oct. 2020 Pompeo took part in a symposium that night hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, and her husband, Newt, who is a co-chair of the advocacy group Catholics for Trump. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, "How Trump and Barr are Benefitting from the Catholic Right’s Consolidation of Power," 2 Oct. 2020 Pompeo, who attended a symposium on religious freedom hosted by the United States mission to the Holy See earlier Wednesday, has been lobbying the Vatican publicly to scrap an agreement with Beijing that pertains to the nomination of bishops. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Pompeo defends religious freedom diplomacy as Vatican allies impugn his motives," 30 Sep. 2020

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

1711, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for symposium

Latin, from Greek symposion, from sympinein to drink together, from syn- + pinein to drink — more at potable

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about symposium

Time Traveler for symposium

Time Traveler

The first known use of symposium was in 1711

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about symposium

Statistics for symposium

Last Updated

16 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Symposium.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for symposium


How to pronounce symposium (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of symposium

: a formal meeting at which experts discuss a particular topic
: a collection of articles on a particular subject

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on symposium

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


Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a traditional thanksgiving dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!