What Does “That’s Just Semantics!” Mean?

Jonathan Garner
2 min readOct 28, 2022
Photo by Edurne Tx on Unsplash

Quite often, I come across someone saying, “That’s just semantics”. The irony about the phrase (and debates around the phrase) is that it’s not exactly clear what it means. At the very least, it’s not always clear what the phrase means (to me).

Some people will say that the meaning of that phrase depends on the context.

For example, I’ve seen some people complain that people use that phrase to ignore a presented argument. In other words, the person was just trotting out the cliche of “that’s just semantics” as if it’s a rebuttal.

On the other hand, I’ve seen cases for another reason: the other person wasn’t addressing the main point of the argument but focusing on stipulative definitions. To ignore the core of an argument because of disagreements in terminology is fallacious.

Thirdly, I’ve seen people interpret the phrase as meaning that semantics/definitions/clarity don’t matter (which seems obviously absurd).

Fourthly, the phrase could mean that two people really do agree on concepts but are talking past each other with definitions/terms/labels/words. People can agree on concepts but disagree on labels, so people can be agreeing with each other but disagree about whether a label is good.



Jonathan Garner

Finance/Investing/Economics/Philosophy/Religion blogger. I’m also a Philosophy of Religion blogger:https://jonathandavidgarner.wordpress.com/