Frame semantics, usually ascribed to Charles J. Fillmore as a development of his case grammar, is based on the idea that concepts cannot be treated in isolation, but are embedded in a larger body of knowledge. Thus, conceptual structures (called semantic frames) provide a background of beliefs and experiences that are necessary to interpret the lexical meaning of the word in question. Consequently, it is assumed that the meaning of a word cannot be understood without access to all the knowledge that relates to that word. A semantic frame is therefore defined as a coherent structure of related concepts: without knowledge of all of them, we do not have complete knowledge of one of them. Each word is assumed to evoke a particular frame. For example, the frame Commercial Transaction is connected to words such as buy, sell, goods, and money.
Like semantic networks, the notion of inheritance is assumed to be valid for semantic frames: a certain subframe can inherit elements from the respective parent frame.