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Punctuation marks
Comma, comma ,
Semicolon, semicolon ;
Colon, colon :
Point .
Ellipsis ...
Focus ·
bullet point
Question mark ?
Exclamation, exclamation, call signs !
Apostrophe, apostrophe '
- - Hyphen ; Hyphen ;
Supplementary line
Indent ; Up line -
quotation marks"" »«  /  «»
‚'› ‹  /  ‹ › 
Slashes / \
Brackets () []

The semicolon or semicolon (Latin-Greek "half colon "; plurality : semicolons or semicolons ) - written ;  - is a punctuation mark for connecting two sentences or groups of words of the same rank . It creates a stronger separation than the comma , but a weaker one than the point . After a semicolon, the German spelling continues to write lowercase, provided that no noun or a word that needs to be capitalized for other reasons, such as proper names, follows.


  • “He came home; his sister wasn't there yet. "
  • “For dessert there were apples, bananas and cherries; red grits and vanilla cream; Cookies, cakes and tarts. "

In the Unicode system, the characters U + 0387 GREEK ANO TELEIA and U + 00B7 MIDDLE DOT are canonically equivalent, so the latter is normally used.

Concept history

The semicolon is the symbol in southern Germany including Saarland and in parts of Rhineland-Palatinate, Austria, South Tyrol, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In JG Schottelius it is originally "Strichpünctlein" in Adelung "Strichpunct". In northern and the rest of central Germany, however, it is called a semicolon .

In Greek , the semicolon serves as a question mark (Ερωτηματικό) - the raised point serves as a semicolon .

Use in German spelling

The semicolon can be used to separate subordinate sentences or groups of words from one another. The semicolon expresses a higher degree of delimitation than a comma and a lower degree than a period.

Main clauses of equal rank

Basically, the author determines how closely he wants to tie these main clauses together, i.e. whether he wants to separate them from one another with a comma, semicolon or period; If these sentences also contain commas, it makes sense to separate them with semicolons if the point appears to be too strong a caesura.

Examples from the official spelling rules:

“It was quiet in the hall; I rang the bell expectantly. ”-“ My friend missed the train; that's why she was half an hour late. ”-“ Stefan has longed for a dog; but his parents do not tolerate animals in the apartment. ”-“ The matter is settled; therefore we don't want to argue any longer. ”-“ We have to think about which train we want to take; if we take the earlier one, we have to hurry. "

Further examples:

“No one is ordered to judge himself; because he seldom really appreciates what he has done, and what he does he almost never appreciates. ”(Goethe) -“ Eat what is cooked; drink what is clear; speak what is true; Dear what is rare! "


In enumerations, word groups of the same rank with the same structure can be separated from one another by semicolons.

  • In contrast to separating only with commas, the entire list can be divided into groups of related terms.

Example from the official spelling rules:

  • “Our provisions consisted of dried meat, bacon and smoked ham; Egg and milk powder; Rice, pasta and semolina. "

Further examples:

  • “In our garden grow: apricot, cherry, plum, pear and apple trees; Currant, gooseberry and raspberry bushes; Salad, onions and beans. ”-“ The parallelograms include the square; Diamonds or rhombuses; Rectangles or orthogons. "

In particular, if the word groups listed contain commas, the structure of the entire list should be emphasized by semicolons. Example:

  • “We have: eggs and bacon; Eggs, sausages and bacon; Eggs and spam ; Eggs, bacon and spam; Eggs, bacon, bratwurst and spam; [...]; Lobster Thermidor on prawns with sauce à la Mornay, garnished with truffle pie, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam. "

Today the semicolon is often used in lists in which bullets are used and the individual elements listed are complex subordinate clauses.

The semicolon in computer science

The semicolon has the character code  in ASCII , ISO 8859 and Unicode, and correspondingly in Internet addresses ( URL ) . 3B16%3b

In many programming languages , the semicolon serves as a separator and closes instructions (example: C , Java ) or separates instructions from one another (example: Algol 68 , Pascal ). This also applies to the scripting languages PHP , JavaScript (only optional) and the declarative language CSS used in the Internet environment . This enables the parser to recognize which characters belong to an instruction. In many assembly languages , a semicolon ends the statement part of a line; the rest of the line is a comment and is ignored by the parser.

The semicolon is also used as a separator in lists, especially when the list elements themselves can contain commas. For example, some email clients require multiple addresses in an input field to be separated by semicolons; The German version of the spreadsheet program Microsoft Excel , in which the comma is used as a decimal separator , requires numbers to be separated by semicolons. It is also often used in mathematics in sets to prevent confusion with decimal numbers, for example: L = {1,5; 3; 3.5}.

In Prolog , the semicolon is used as an operator . It acts as a logical disjunction , whereas the comma is understood as a logical conjunction .

In INI files , a semicolon introduces a comment up to the end of the line.


  • Thomas Forrer: The semicolon. Ingenious ingredient. In: Christine Abbt , Tim Kammasch: point, point, comma, line: gesture, shape and meaning of philosophical punctuation. transcript, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8394-0988-6 , pp. 87-99 (on the meaning and history of the semicolon).
  • Johannes Waechter: A good sign. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin . Issue 28, 2008 (on the use of the semicolon; online at ).

Web links

Wiktionary: semicolon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Single receipts

  1. a b Entry: semicolon / semicolon (question 3l). In: Atlas of everyday German language. January 14, 2012, accessed on November 28, 2019 (project by the University of Liège and University of Salzburg ).
  2. Unicode Standard 12.1: Unicode Character Code Charts: Greek and Coptic. Unicode, Inc. (English; PDF: 333 kB. 5 pages at )
  3. ^ Institute for German Language (IDS): German Spelling: Rules and Dictionary. Updated version of the official set of rules in accordance with the recommendations of the Council for German Spelling 2016. Mannheim 2018, p. 90: § 80 ( PDF: 936 kB, 105 pages on ).
  4. ^ Taken from the 1970s sketch Spam by the British comedian group Monty Python .
  5. Unicode Standard 12.1: Unicode Character Code Charts: C0 Controls and Basic Latin. Unicode, Inc. (English; PDF: 445 kB. 6 pages at )