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[sem-i-koh-luh n] /ˈsɛm ɪˌkoʊ lən/
the punctuation mark (;) used to indicate a major division in a sentence where a more distinct separation is felt between clauses or items on a list than is indicated by a comma, as between the two clauses of a compound sentence.
Origin of semicolon
First recorded in 1635-45; semi- + colon1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for semicolon
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When as introduces an example, it is preceded by a semicolon.

    The Verbalist Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
  • In the first sentence the semicolon enables us to group the objects enumerated.


    Paul Allardyce
  • The semicolon, for instance, is the Greek mark of interrogation.

    Punctuation Frederick W. Hamilton
  • Both the colon and semicolon are much less used now than formerly.

    Punctuation Frederick W. Hamilton
  • In Sentence 21 the semicolon gives notice of a grouping which does not follow.

    Why We Punctuate William Livingston Klein
  • The same is true when a colon is used within a group made by a semicolon.

    Why We Punctuate William Livingston Klein
  • The need of the semicolon in both Nos. 58 and 59 is, we think, unmistakable.

    Why We Punctuate William Livingston Klein
  • Either the semicolon and the comma or the quotation-marks must be omitted.

    Why We Punctuate William Livingston Klein
British Dictionary definitions for semicolon


the punctuation mark (;) used to indicate a pause intermediate in value or length between that of a comma and that of a full stop
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for semicolon

punctuation-mark, 1640s, a hybrid coined from Latin-derived semi- + Greek-based colon (n.1). The mark itself was in Greek the point of interrogation.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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semicolon in Culture

semicolon definition

A punctuation mark (;) used to join two independent clauses in a sentence. The semicolon shows that the ideas in the two clauses are related: “Jack really didn't mind being left without a car; he had the house to himself.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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