se·​man·​tics | \ si-ˈman-tiks How to pronounce semantics (audio) \

Definition of semantics

1 : the study of meanings:
a : the historical and psychological study and the classification of changes in the signification of words or forms viewed as factors in linguistic development
b(1) : semiotics
(2) : a branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they refer to and including theories of denotation, extension, naming, and truth
3a : the meaning or relationship of meanings of a sign or set of signs especially : connotative meaning
b : the language used (as in advertising or political propaganda) to achieve a desired effect on an audience especially through the use of words with novel or dual meanings

Examples of semantics in a Sentence

More than semantics is at stake. In the case of obesity, the debate has heightened in the wake of major diet-pill recalls last year. Many new diet nostrums are in various stages of testing, and the FDA's bar for approving new drugs is lower for disease treatments than for other problems, such as baldness or skin wrinkles. — Laura Johannes et al., Wall Street Journal, 9 Feb. 1998 Over the years Wierzbicka has gained a distinct reputation for playing hardball with others in the linguistics community. Though her rhetoric can be rather scathing at times, there is no question that her studies in semantics are a force to be reckoned with. — Joseph Hilferty, Word, April 1997
Recent Examples on the Web Eventually, all discussions about sterilizing immunity become nerdy quibbles over semantics. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 9 Sep. 2021 Always by using ‘yes-no’ questions, independent of the semantics of the messages themselves. Gabriel A. Silva, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 Beyond the semantics of a blowout win, Hicks’ game underscored something bigger for the defending 5A state champions. Kevin Reynolds, Dallas News, 28 Aug. 2021 They are officially designated as the Russian Olympic Committee rather than Russia, but that’s semantics. Rachel Axon, USA TODAY, 30 July 2021 But the battle of semantics is a cover for a turf war that involves not just place but memory and reality. Los Angeles Times, 12 July 2021 Sidewalk semantics aside, at least a few Faulconer critics took issue with him regarding homeless tents in San Diego. Michael Smolens Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 July 2021 Baker-Bell says Black language is a legitimate language with syntax, grammatical features, phonology and semantics. USA Today, 17 June 2021 But whatever the semantics, the political alliance was unmistakable. Zachary D. Carter, The New Republic, 17 June 2021

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

1874, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for semantics

see semantic

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Time Traveler for semantics

Time Traveler

The first known use of semantics was in 1874

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Dictionary Entries Near semantics

semanticize

semantics

semantogenic

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Statistics for semantics

Last Updated

19 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Semantics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/semantics. Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for semantics

semantics

noun

English Language Learners Definition of semantics

: the study of the meanings of words and phrases in language
: the meanings of words and phrases in a particular context

semantics

noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction
se·​man·​tics | \ si-ˈmant-iks How to pronounce semantics (audio) \

Medical Definition of semantics

: the study of meanings:
a : the historical and psychological study and the classification of changes in the signification of words or forms viewed as factors in linguistic development
b(1) : semiotic
(2) : a branch of semiotic dealing with the relations between signs and what they refer to and including theories of denotation, extension, naming, and truth

More from Merriam-Webster on semantics

Nglish: Translation of semantics for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about semantics

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