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[kuh-mens-muh nt] /kəˈmɛns mənt/
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.
Origin of commencement
1225-75; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French. See commence, -ment
Related forms
noncommencement, noun
recommencement, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for commencement
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At the commencement of the quarrel he had been unarmed, but he had now seized this weapon in self-defence.

    An Old New Zealander T. Lindsay Buick
  • Such was the state of things at the commencement of our story.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • It had long been the custom of the seniors to follow the commencement proper with a banquet.

    Hester's Counterpart Jean K. Baird
  • It is now going on seven years since the commencement of this war.

  • The Greek army was destroyed, and this event marks the commencement of the decadence of Athens.

    Astronomy for Amateurs Camille Flammarion
British Dictionary definitions for commencement


the beginning; start
  1. (US & Canadian) a ceremony for the presentation of awards at secondary schools
  2. (US) a ceremony for the conferment of academic degrees
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
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Word Origin and History for commencement

late 13c., "beginning," from Old French comencement "beginning, start" (Modern French commencement), from comencier (see commence). Meaning "school graduation ceremony" attested by 1850, American English. (Sense "entrance upon the privileges of a master or doctor in a university" is from late 14c.)

I know what you are thinking of -- the class members grouped in a semicircle on the stage, the three scared boys in new ready-made black suits, the seventeen pretty girls in fluffy white dresses (the gowns of the year), each senior holding a ribbon-tied manuscript bulging with thoughts on "Beyond the Alps Lies Italy," "Our Ship is Launched -- Whither Shall it Sail?" and similar topics. [Charles Moreau Harger, "The Real Commencement," "New Outlook," May 8, 1909]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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