[sem-i-koh-luh n]
  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.

Origin of semicolon

First recorded in 1635–45; semi- + colon1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for semicolon

Contemporary Examples of semicolon

Historical Examples of semicolon

  • 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.


    Frederick W. Hamilton

  • Both the colon and semicolon are much less used now than formerly.


    Frederick W. Hamilton

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

    Why We Punctuate

    William Livingston Klein

British Dictionary definitions for semicolon


  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

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

semicolon in Culture


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.