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

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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 Last year, Fordham University hosted a symposium on O’Connor and race, supported with a grant from the author’s estate. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, "How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?," 15 June 2020 The purpose of the symposium and brief march was to focus attention on the city of Oakland’s successful attempts in recent years to curb gun violence. Scott Ostler,, "Steve Kerr, Steph Curry, Klay Thomspon show support for Oakland anti-gun-violence program," 7 Mar. 2020 Organizers said community members are welcome to attend all or parts of the symposium., "Andrew DeFranza, executive director of Harborlight Community Partners — a nonprofit that creates and advocates for affordable housing — will deliver a keynote address.," 6 Nov. 2019 This year Tokarczuk was a guest curator, organizing a weeklong series of symposiums featuring leading Polish writers and intellectuals. Ruth Franklin, The New Yorker, "Olga Tokarczuk’s Novels Against Nationalism," 29 July 2019 Neal VanDeRee, co-director of the symposium, said the Chinese are the newest to the field and may be the most advanced. Cindy Krischer Goodman,, "Frozen for eternity: Can you really cheat death?," 26 July 2019 At the symposium, New York landscape designer Hanna Packer brought her own palette of underused perennials. Adrian Higgins, Washington Post, "It’s time to plan the new season’s garden, and it pays to be picky," 11 Mar. 2020 The fee for the symposium is $90, with an increase to $150 on July 1. Tim Diovanni, Dallas News, "Dallas Symphony announces its second Women in Classical Music Symposium," 6 May 2020 Tómasson also traveled frequently to various trade shows and symposiums to explain the benefits and advantages of Iceland. Los Angeles Times, "Coronavirus shut down production. But Iceland could help Hollywood reopen," 30 Apr. 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for symposium

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The first known use of symposium was in 1711

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Last Updated

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Symposium.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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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

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