Definition of Sumerian in English:



  • Relating to Sumer, its ancient language, or the early, non-Semitic element it contributed to Babylonian civilization.

    • ‘Sitchin's claim to fame is announcing that he alone correctly reads ancient Sumerian clay tablets.’
    • ‘Ancient tablets bearing Sumerian cuneiform, for example, feature descriptions of procedures for reckoning in base 60.’
    • ‘However, it is now known that Hammurabi's code had Sumerian predecessors, that these law codes were well-known in the society of Hammurabi's time, and that Hammurabi made extensive use of these earlier codes in formulating his code.’
    • ‘Even the form of Hammurabi's code is identical to its Sumerian predecessors.’
    • ‘Hopefully you can see that these cults were an amalgamation of Hebrew monotheism and Egyptian and Sumerian polytheism.’
    • ‘Eminent scientists agree that calculations tend to confirm the accuracy of the ancient Sumerian creation story.’
    • ‘However, by about this time Sumerian civilization, although highly developed, was near the end of its long run as an independent entity - one with identifiable social, organization, and linguistic characteristics.’
    • ‘As early as 3500 BC the Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia was smoking fish; and the Chinese may well have been practising it equally early, though there is no evidence of this until later, when smoked foods are mentioned as normal items.’
    • ‘The Babylonian civilisation in Mesopotamia replaced the Sumerian civilisation and the Akkadian civilisation.’
    • ‘Born of spontaneous sketches, the collection was named Sumer for its links to ancient Sumerian culture.’
    • ‘The Sumerian city-states are regarded as the onset of civilization.’
    • ‘The dynasty founded by him was destroyed in about 2200, and after 2150 the kings of Ur not only re-established Sumerian sovereignty in Sumer but also conquered Akkad.’
    • ‘As a consequence, there was a revival of the Sumerian language, but only in religious and literary areas, as the language remained unimportant for administrative purposes.’
    • ‘Over 4000 years ago the Sumerian merchants of Babylon and Nineveh recorded bills, receipts and promissory notes in cuneiform script on clay tablets.’
    • ‘Arriving at what was once the Sumerian city of Uruk, she discovered the ancient mound crawling with natives hunting for treasure.’
    • ‘Stephenson seemed to think the Sumerian language was based on some kind of real correspondence to natural neurological patterns, and that this gave it the power to reprogram brains with each utterance.’
    • ‘It was adopted from many Sumerian customs that had been around for a while before the Babylonians.’
    • ‘They were Sumerian and Akkadian words inscribed in parallel columns on clay tablets in cuneiform writing and were organized thematically.’
    • ‘However, recently archaeologists have made some remarkable discoveries which shed light upon how abstract mathematical notions evolved amongst ancient Sumerian societies.’
    • ‘Items from ancient Babylon and Nineveh, Sumerian statues, Assyrian reliefs and 5,000-year-old tablets bearing some of the earliest known writing have been taken or damaged whilst troops stood by and watched.’


  • 1A member of the indigenous non-Semitic people of ancient Babylonia.

    • ‘The first victims of this were the indigenous Stone Age civilizations of the Americas, whose level of development was roughly on a par with that of the early Egyptians and Sumerians.’
    • ‘Once the inhabitants, the Sumerians and the Akkadians, figured out how to irrigate the river valleys by building canals between the two rivers, the region became the bread bowl of the ancient world.’
    • ‘The Sumerians knew the site as Unu, the Akkadian speakers as Uruk.’
    • ‘In fact, similar murals have been found in South Africa and South Asia and honey has been repeatedly mentioned in the writings of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Egyptians.’
    • ‘The Sumerians and Egyptians also used symbols to represent spoken sounds, such as syllables and words.’
    • ‘In contrast to what we might naively expect, Sumerian societies were not governed by all-powerful despotic kings whose word was law.’
    • ‘Although the Sumerians as people disappeared, their language and literature continued to influence the religion of their successors.’
    • ‘Once the trade capital of East Africa, Zanzibar attracted Sumerians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Chinese and Malays, giving the city a distinct culture and history from mainland Tanzania.’
    • ‘Certainly in terms of their number system the Babylonians inherited ideas from the Sumerians and from the Akkadians.’
    • ‘Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait's nine islands, suggests it was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians.’
    • ‘In ancient Mesopotamia, the Sumerians made a distinction between the planet Venus, known as Delebat, who was worshipped as a goddess in her own right, and the goddess Inana, of whom she was an aspect.’
    • ‘The Sumerians left us written instructions for the production of beer without hops, and similar gruel-like ales that must be sipped through a straw are still produced in some parts of Africa, and elsewhere.’
    • ‘Anyone who has studied ancient history at high school can recall the Sumerians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers.’
    • ‘The Sumerians, Akkadians, Mesopotamians and Ancient Egyptians certainly enjoyed them.’
    • ‘The Dilmun culture, along the Gulf coast, was contemporaneous with the Sumerians and ancient Egyptians, and most of the empires of the ancient world traded with the states of the peninsula.’
    • ‘Egyptians, like Sumerians, must have quickly realized the limitations of writing with only pictograms.’
    • ‘He deduced this from comparisons of data taken by the ancient Sumerians 2,000 years before his time.’
    • ‘Ancient Egyptians, Sumerians and Babylonians have also been hailed as the originators of palm-reading.’
    • ‘Some of the most sophisticated ancient civilisations once thrived in Iraq, but the cities of the Babylonians, Assyrians and Sumerians have become fragile ruins, in a nation recovering from war.’
    • ‘Therefore Mattessich deduced that the ancient Sumerians practiced a kind of double-entry record keeping some 5,000 years ago.’
  • 2The Sumerian language.

    • ‘The bosses, as is their wont, reacted as if I had proposed handing out our promotional material written in Sumerian and wrapped in a puzzle.’
    • ‘Elam, whose capital was at Susa, was a part of Sumerian-Mesopotamian cultural region although the Elamite language does not seem to be related to Sumerian.’
    • ‘But, scholars now agree that the language of these tablets was Sumerian.’
    • ‘It exists today in myriad, fragmented Sumerian, Hittite, Babylonian, and other versions that scholars have had to piece together in order to assemble coherent accounts.’
    • ‘Anyhow, I'm waiting for Mel's Gilgamesh - with dialog in Sumerian!’
    • ‘By then, Rawlinson and his many rivals had revealed the history of Old Testament cities and the existence of the earliest writing and the oldest language known, Sumerian, dating back five millennia.’
    • ‘I can't think of a volume that has better interpreted the linguistic history of Eurasia, from Sumerian onwards, or of the entire world in the post-Columbian era.’
    • ‘But when Ammondt tried his hand at translating the song Blue Suede Shoes into the ancient language of Sumerian, there were difficulties, not least that the Sumerians, who lived in 4000BC, didn't have shoes, let alone suede ones.’
    • ‘First, Sumerian is usually translated through reference to Akkadian translations of Sumerian words and passages, and hence we are dependent on Akkadian understanding of Sumerian.’
    • ‘The notion of correct Latin and correct Greek had been at the center of European education for centuries at that point - and for that matter, the notion of correct Sanskrit or correct Sumerian had emerged in other places much earlier.’
    • ‘If someone today were able to speak Sumerian, would they be a neuro-linguistic programmer?’
    • ‘The epilogue of the Lipit-Ishtar code is typically Sumerian, being (like the prologue) rather florid.’
    • ‘I suppose now you are going to point me to a foreign root of the word ‘kill’ in Arabic or Sumerian or some other exotic language to try to prove your point?’
    • ‘The language represented was probably Sumerian but that is not certain.’
    • ‘I resolutely resisted the temptation to take the easy road and use modern words as loan words in Sumerian, which would have ruined the whole experiment.’
    • ‘The poems are written in Akkadian and Sumerian, the latter a mainly academic, scribal language, the former a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic.’
    • ‘The work of Spencer Wells on the Y chromosome, for example, has thrown new light on the enigma of the origins of the Basque population and their language, which, like Sumerian, is an isolate unrelated to Indo-European.’
    • ‘Now it is the impossibility of generalizing this principle of representation that has introduced even into fundamentally morphemographic writing systems such as Chinese, Egyptian, and Sumerian, the phonographic principle.’
    • ‘If only one thing is bunk in ‘Snow Crash’, I think it's the supposition that Sumerian was significantly different from any other language.’


Late 19th century: from French sumérien, from Sumer.