• seminal •
se-mi-nêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Pertaining to seed or semen, produced by a seed. 2. A fundamental work that profoundly influences later work.
Notes: The adverb here is seminally and the noun, seminality. English has several words based on its underlying form, Latin semen "seed". We have seminar "course for a small group of select advanced students" and seminary "a place of early (religious) development". We also have seminate "to sow".
In Play: In the arts, today's Good Word refers to an innovative work that is a major influence on all that comes after it: "Stravinsky's Rites of Spring was a seminal work in the history of modern music." Don't forget the original sense of the word, no matter how rare today: "Half the flowers in my garden are transplanted; the other half are seminal."
Word History: This word was borrowed whole from Old French seminal, inherited from Latin seminalis, based on semen, seminis "seed of plants, animals, or men". Latin inherited its word from PIE semen- "seed", a suffixed form of the root se-/so- "to sow", source also of Latin serere "to sow". We find words of the same PIE source in Lithuanian sèmenys, Russian semya, semeni, Serbian seme, semeni, German Samen, Spanish semilla, all meaning "seed"—and English seed itself. The deep root, se-/so-, evolved as sow in English and säen in German.
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