[ si-man-tiks ]
/ sɪˈmæn tɪks /
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noun (used with a singular verb)
  1. the study of meaning.
  2. the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form.
Also called significs. the branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they denote.
the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.: Let's not argue about semantics.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of semantics

First recorded in 1895–1900; see origin at semantic, -ics


se·man·ti·cist [si-man-tuh-sist], /sɪˈmæn tə sɪst/, se·man·ti·cian [see-man-tish-uhn], /ˌsi mænˈtɪʃ ən/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use semantics in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for semantics

/ (sɪˈmæntɪks) /

noun (functioning as singular)
the branch of linguistics that deals with the study of meaning, changes in meaning, and the principles that govern the relationship between sentences or words and their meanings
the study of the relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent
  1. the study of interpretations of a formal theory
  2. the study of the relationship between the structure of a theory and its subject matter
  3. (of a formal theory) the principles that determine the truth or falsehood of sentences within the theory, and the references of its terms

Derived forms of semantics

semanticist, noun
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

Medical definitions for semantics

[ sĭ-măntĭks ]

The study or science of meaning in language forms.
The study of the relationships between various signs and symbols and what they represent.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Cultural definitions for semantics


The scientific or philosophical study of the relations of words and their meanings.

notes for semantics

Semantics is commonly used to refer to a trivial point or distinction that revolves around mere words rather than significant issues: “To argue whether the medication killed the patient or contributed to her death is to argue over semantics.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.