[ si-mes-ter ]
/ sɪˈmɛs tər /


(in many educational institutions) a division constituting half of the regular academic year, lasting typically from 15 to 18 weeks.
(in German universities) a session, lasting about six months and including periods of recess.

Nearby words

  1. semelparous,
  2. sememe,
  3. semen,
  4. semenuria,
  5. semeru,
  6. semester hour,
  7. semestrial,
  8. semey,
  9. semi,
  10. semi-

Origin of semester

1820–30; < German < Latin sēmē(n)stris of six months duration < *sex-mēnstris, equivalent to sex six + mēns(is) month + -tris adj. suffix (perhaps representing an earlier *mens(i)-teros)

Related formsse·mes·tral, se·mes·tri·al [si-mes-tree-uh l] /sɪˈmɛs tri əl/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for semester

British Dictionary definitions for semester


/ (sɪˈmɛstə) /


(in some universities) either of two divisions of the academic year, ranging from 15 to 18 weeks
(in German universities) a session of six months
Derived Formssemestral, adjective

Word Origin for semester

C19: via German from Latin sēmestris half-yearly, from sex six + mensis a month

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 semester



1827, from German Semester "half-year course in a university," from Latin semestris, in cursus semestris "course of six months," from semestris, semenstris "of six months, lasting six months, half-yearly, semi-annual," from sex "six" (see six) + mensis "month" (see moon (n.)). Related: Semestral; semestrial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper