Text categorization plays a crucial role in both academic and commercial platforms due to the growing demand for automatic organization of documents. Kernel-based classification algorithms such as Support Vector Machines (SVM) have become highly popular in the task of text mining. This is mainly due to their relatively high classification accuracy on several application domains as well as their ability to handle high dimensional and sparse data which is the prohibitive characteristics of textual data representation. Recently, there is an increased interest in the exploitation of background knowledge such as ontologies and corpus-based statistical knowledge in text categorization. It has been shown that, by replacing the standard kernel functions such as linear kernel with customized kernel functions which take advantage of this background knowledge, it is possible to increase the performance of SVM in the text classification domain. Based on this, we propose a novel semantic smoothing kernel for SVM. The suggested approach is based on a meaning measure, which calculates the meaningfulness of the terms in the context of classes. The documents vectors are smoothed based on these meaning values of the terms in the context of classes. Since we efficiently make use of the class information in the smoothing process, it can be considered a supervised smoothing kernel. The meaning measure is based on the Helmholtz principle from Gestalt theory and has previously been applied to several text mining applications such as document summarization and feature extraction. However, to the best of our knowledge, ours is the first study to use meaning measure in a supervised setting to build a semantic kernel for SVM. We evaluated the proposed approach by conducting a large number of experiments on well-known textual datasets and present results with respect to different experimental conditions. We compare our results with traditional kernels used in SVM such as linear kernel as well as with several corpus-based semantic kernels. Our results show that classification performance of the proposed approach outperforms other kernels. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.