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From Middle English *comencen, *cumensen, attested in the noun comencement, and in its contracted forms comsen, cumsen, borrowed from Anglo-Norman, Old French comencer, cumencer, comencier, from Vulgar Latin *cominitiō, *cominitiāre, formed from Latin com- + initiō (see initiate).



commence (third-person singular simple present commences, present participle commencing, simple past and past participle commenced)

  1. (intransitive) To begin, start.
    • 1601, William Shakespeare, The Phoenix and the Turtle,[1]
      Here the anthem doth commence:
    • 1770, Oliver Goldsmith, “The Deserted Village” in The Miscellaneous Works of Oliver Goldsmith, London: W. Griffin, 1775, p. 164,[2]
      His heaven commences ere the world be past!
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, Chapter 4,[3]
      He commenced dressing at top by donning his beaver hat, a very tall one, by the by, and then—still minus his trowsers—he hunted up his boots.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 4, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      Then he commenced to talk, really talk. and inside of two flaps of a herring's fin he had me mesmerized, like Eben Holt's boy at the town hall show. He talked about the ills of humanity, and the glories of health and Nature and service and land knows what all.
  2. (transitive) To begin to be, or to act as.
    • 1743, Robert Drury, The Pleasant, and Surprizing Adventures of Mr. Robert Drury, during his Fifteen Years Captivity on the Island of Madagascar, London, p. 126,[4]
      [] he furnish’d me with a Gun, Cartouch-box, and Powder-horn, &c. and thus accouter’d I commenc’d Soldier.
    • 1825, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character, London: Taylor & Hessey, Prudential Aphorisms, Aphorism 15, p. 48,[5]
      When we are wearied of the trouble of prosecuting crimes at the bar, we commence judges ourselves []
  3. (Britain, intransitive, dated) To take a degree at a university.
    • 1655, Thomas Fuller, The Church-History of Britain, London: John Williams, The Seventh Century, p. 75,[6]
      [] I question whether the Formality of Commencing was used in that Age: inclining rather to the negative, that such Distinction of Graduates was then unknown []
    • 1861, George John Gray, Athenae Cantabrigienses: 1586-1609 (page 272)
      [] was admitted a minor fellow of his college 4 Oct. 1591, a major fellow 11 March 1591-2, and commenced M.A. in 1592.


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