[ sem-i-koh-luhn ]

  1. 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.

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Origin of semicolon

First recorded in 1635–45; semi- + colon1

Words Nearby semicolon Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use semicolon in a sentence

  • A pause generally indicated by a comma may be indicated by a semicolon when commas are used in the sentence for other purposes.

    "Stops" | Paul Allardyce
  • If the conjunction "and" were inserted in the last sentence, the comma would be used instead of the semicolon.

    "Stops" | Paul Allardyce
  • Of course, this rule must be qualified by the rules for the stronger points, especially by those for the semicolon and the colon.

    "Stops" | Paul Allardyce

British Dictionary definitions for semicolon


/ (ˌsɛmɪˈkəʊlən) /

  1. 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

Cultural definitions for semicolon


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.