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See also: Lexeme and lexème


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From Latin lexis, from Ancient Greek λέξις (léxis, word) +‎ -eme, a suffix indicating a fundamental unit in some aspect of linguistic structure. Extracted from phoneme, from Ancient Greek φώνημα (phṓnēma, sound), from φωνέω (phōnéō, to sound), from φωνή (phōnḗ, sound).


  • enPR: lĕkˈ sēmˌ; IPA(key): /ˈ lɛkˌsiːm/
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Examples (linguistics)
  • The family associated with the lexeme run includes the forms "run" (lemma), "running" (inflected form), and "ran" (irregular inflected form). It excludes "runner" – which is a derived term, a different part of speech, and in turn the lemma of its own lexeme, which includes the plural, "runners".
  • The family for lexeme steam iron includes "steam iron" (lemma) and "steam irons" (inflected form).

lexeme (plural lexemes)

  1. (linguistics) A lexical item corresponding to the set of all words (or of all multi-word expressions) that are semantically related through inflection of a particular shared basic form.
    1. (strictly) The abstract minimum unit of language or meaning that underlies such a set.
      Synonyms: lexical item, semanteme
      • 2003, David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, p. 118:
        A lexeme is a unit of lexical meaning, which exists regardless of any inflectional endings it may have or the number of words it may contain. Thus, fibrillate, rain cats and dogs, and come in are all lexemes, as are elephant, jog, cholesterol, happiness, put up with, face the music, and hundreds of thousands of other meaningful items in English.
      • 2014 September 25, Rochelle Lieber, Pavol Stekauer, editors, The Oxford Handbook of Derivational Morphology[1], page 347:
        In a typical lexicalist approach (e.g. Koontz-Garboden 2006), the unmarked lexeme is taken as lexically listed, even if its meaning (as it often does) includes templatic entailments, and the derivational morphology is taken to operate on the underived form to yield the derived form. This is the case not only morphologically, but also semantically.
    2. (loosely) The set itself; a lexemic family.
    3. (loosely) The word-form chosen to represent such a set or family.
      Synonyms: base form, basic form, canonical form, citation form, dictionary form, headword, lemma
  2. (computing) An individual instance of a continuous character sequence without spaces, used in lexical analysis (see token).

Usage notes[edit]

  • In linguistics, a lexeme is properly understood as corresponding to a family of inflected forms, not a particular member of its family, although it is always designated by one of the members (the lemma).
  • Since all the members of a lexeme family are related by inflection, each member is the same part of speech and usually is built from the same number of words as each of the other members (e.g., "put up with" and "puts up with" each consist of three words, and both are classified as verbs).
  • For a lemma that has no inflected forms, the lexemic family consists of just a single member (e.g., the lexeme beyond contains only the lemma "beyond", since English prepositions are not inflected).

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lexeme n pl

  1. plural of lexem