General English

Information & Library Science

  • noun a group of words which is complete in itself, containing a subject and a verb


  • noun a legal punishment given by a court to a convicted person

Origin & History of “sentence”

‘Complete grammatical unit’ is a comparatively recent meaning of sentence, which only emerged in English in the 15th century. Its Latin ancestor sententia originally meant ‘feeling’, for it was a derivative of sentīre ‘feel’ (source also of English sense, sentiment, etc). It subsequently broadened out to ‘opinion, judgment’, which was the starting point for the use of English sentence for ‘judicial declaration of punishment’. Sententia also came to denote ‘meaning’, and hence ‘meaning expressed in words’ and ‘maxim’. The former lies behind the grammatical sense of English sentence, while the latter survives in the derived adjective sententious (15th c.).