Article

October 17, 2021

A lemma (plural lemmas or lemmata), keyword or entry is the word on which a term in reference works, for example a dictionary or an encyclopedia, can be looked up. In many reference works there is an overview of the entries at the back: the index or the register. A lemma sometimes contains references to various pages: the lemma is mentioned on all these pages. In electronic search, you type the lemma in the search box. An lemma is usually the first, often bold, word of an article in a dictionary or encyclopedia. In order to find an article, the lemma with which the article starts must be known. This way you will find the past participle searched under the lemma search, the infinitive of the relevant verb. That is why, in addition to lemma, the synonyms keyword and entry are also used.

Item

The word lemma is also used by extension to indicate a complete article on a subject in a dictionary or encyclopedia.

Origin

The loanword lemma came from classical Greek (via medieval Latin) into Dutch. The plural lemmata is the original Greek plural form. The Greek word lḗmma meant 'assumption, that which is taken'. It is a derivation of the verb lambánein ( 'to take'). Classical Latin borrowed the word lēmma from Greek and shifted its meaning to 'subject of a writing; epigram, inscription, title'. The Latin meaning 'inscription, title' (in several languages, including Dutch) eventually evolved into 'keyword'.

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