sym·​po·​sium | \sim-ˈpō-zē-əm also -zh(ē-)əm \
plural symposia\ -​zē-​ə , -​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

c : discussion

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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

Take Findings from one study on the effects of MDMA on autistic adults were were presented at the APA symposium and suggest that social anxiety in autistic adults could be treated through a combination of MDMA and psychotherapy. Elly Belle, Teen Vogue, "People With Depression and Anxiety Could Benefit From Hallucinogens," 10 Aug. 2018 Other celebratory events will include alumni performances, faculty chamber music, lectures, master classes, workshops, a symposium on women in the recording industry, and public conversations with music industry CEOs and artists. John Von Rhein,, "Grant Park Music Festival opens with a choral blockbuster under friendly skies," 14 June 2018 The symposium will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, at the Gloucester Unitarian Universalist Church. David Rattigan,, "Forum on gun violence May 19 in Gloucester," 3 May 2018 At a symposium held at the University of Illinois at Chicago in April, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, thanked Chicago for aiding the island. Morgan Greene,, "After viral video, a refresher course: 5 things to know about Puerto Rico," 10 July 2018 These were among the topics that made for meaty discussions at a two-day symposium hosted by the Federal Highway Administration in Philadelphia this week. Jason Laughlin,, "The nation's top highway official talks self driving cars," 28 June 2018 In mid-July 2016, a retired American professor approached an advisor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university. Washington Post,, "Secret FBI source for Russia inquiry met with three Trump advisors during campaign," 19 May 2018 Director Alan Rudolph is this year's special guest at the University of Michigan film symposium that's become an annual part of Cinetopia. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "Cinetopia's 2018 lineup will bring Gilda Radner documentary to her Detroit hometown," 7 May 2018 Johnson is an intrepid journalist who doesn't mind venturing into the arcane world of, say, a Victorian salmon-fly-tying symposium held at a DoubleTree in New Jersey. Randy Dotinga, The Christian Science Monitor, "In 'The Feather Thief,' a British bird burglary exposes a hidden world," 13 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for symposium

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for symposium

The first known use of symposium was in 1711

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More Definitions for symposium



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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