Updated: 10/18/2022 by Computer Hope

Semantics may refer to any of the following:

1. With computer programming and programming languages, semantics refers to the meaning of an instruction and not the syntax.

For example, if a programmer writes a function that compiles or is interpreted successfully, but doesn't work, that would be a semantic error.

By contrast, if the programmer misspells a keyword or function name, and the program cannot be successfully compiled or interpreted, that would be a syntax error.

2. Semantics is the study of language meanings by examining a single word, signs, or group of text. Semantics is also a branch of linguistics that studies how meaning is constructed, communicated, and how meaning changes over time. In linguistics, there are three types of semantics: formal semantics, lexical semantics, and conceptual semantics.

Formal semantics

With formal semantics, words and meaning are examined from a philosophical or mathematical standpoint. This branch of semantics develops models to help determine the truth behind words instead of only examining real-world examples.

Lexical semantics

Lexical semantics are the most commonly-known type of semantics. This branch looks for the meaning of individual words by considering the context and text surrounding them.

Conceptual semantics

With conceptual semantics, the dictionary definition of the word is examined before any context is applied. After examining the definition, the context is examined by looking for connecting words, how meaning gets assigned, and how meaning may change over time. If the word conveys context, it may be called a sign in conceptual semantics.

Examples of semantics

Below are examples of how the semantics of different words may be interpreted by how they're used.


The word "run" can have many different meanings. For example, "Joe enjoys running" describes a person (Joe) who runs for exercise. However, "My computer is running" doesn't mean the computer is running like a human; it means the computer is operational.


A "crash" could refer to a car accident, a drop in the Stock Market, attending a party without being invited, or a computer problem.


"Move" can describe taking something and putting it elsewhere, pushing or pulling something to an alternate location, or something that stirs emotion.


You can use the Computer Hope dictionary with over 15,000 computer-related terms to help determine the semantics of computer terms.

Artificial intelligence terms, Language, Lexicon, Programming terms, Semantic zoom