[ kuh-mens-muh nt ]
/ kəˈmɛns mənt /


an act or instance of commencing; beginning: the commencement of hostilities.
the ceremony of conferring degrees or granting diplomas at the end of the academic year.
the day on which this ceremony takes place.

Origin of commencement

1225–75; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French. See commence, -ment
Related formsnon·com·mence·ment, nounre·com·mence·ment, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for commencement

British Dictionary definitions for commencement


/ (kəˈmɛnsmənt) /


the beginning; start
  1. US and Canadian a ceremony for the presentation of awards at secondary schools
  2. US a ceremony for the conferment of academic degrees
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

Word Origin and History for commencement



late 13c., "beginning," from Old French comencement "beginning, start" (Modern French commencement), from comencier (see commence). Meaning "school graduation ceremony" attested by 1850, American English. (Sense "entrance upon the privileges of a master or doctor in a university" is from late 14c.)

I know what you are thinking of -- the class members grouped in a semicircle on the stage, the three scared boys in new ready-made black suits, the seventeen pretty girls in fluffy white dresses (the gowns of the year), each senior holding a ribbon-tied manuscript bulging with thoughts on "Beyond the Alps Lies Italy," "Our Ship is Launched -- Whither Shall it Sail?" and similar topics. [Charles Moreau Harger, "The Real Commencement," "New Outlook," May 8, 1909]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper