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.

1225–75; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French. See commence, -ment

noncommencement, noun
recommencement, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
commencement (kəˈmɛnsmənt)
1.  the beginning; start
2.  a.  (US), (Canadian) a ceremony for the presentation of awards at secondary schools
 b.  (US) a ceremony for the conferment of academic degrees

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

mid-13c., from O.Fr. comencement (Mod.Fr. commencement), from comencier (see commence).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Graduation from high school marks the commencement of the fourth stage of life, professional development.
Thank you for giving us this singular privilege of being part of this commencement ceremony.
Excerpts from some of this year's commencement addresses.
Commencement season in academe inevitably brings controversy.
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