1887, "special group-study class for advanced students pursuing real research," from German Seminar "group of students working with a professor," from Latin seminarium "plant nursery, seed plot," figuratively, "breeding ground," from seminarius "of seed," from semen (genitive seminis) "seed" (from PIE root *sē- "to sow"). Also in early use sometimes seminary. The word, and the thing, picked up in England and America from the German universities. The non-academic sense of "meeting for discussion of a subject" is recorded by 1944, American English.
updated on April 28, 2022