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[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.
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 forms
semestral, semestrial
[si-mes-tree-uh l] /sɪˈmɛs tri əl/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for semester
  • For many of us, another semester is right around the corner.
  • There is a two-day career-planning seminar in the first-year fall semester.
  • Not tested yet over a full semester but looks to be good.
  • He had already missed the start of the new semester.
  • The difficulty borrowing may deter them from attending school or prompt them to take a semester off.
  • On my campus we're in the middle of the second full week of the semester.
  • Part-time students generally study two subjects per semester.
  • And students can spend a semester letting this five-million-year-old treasure teach them about time and space.
  • Let's imagine a small department offering three courses for the semester.
  • These late-night eating rituals were a regular part of my week-and social schedule-until the end of the first semester.
British Dictionary definitions for semester


(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 Forms
semestral, adjective
Word Origin
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
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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
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