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An abacus.
An abacus (architecture).
See also the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica's article on:


From Latin abacus, abax; from Ancient Greek ἄβαξ(ábaks, board covered with sand), possibly from Hebrew אבק(āvāq, dust).



abacus (plural abaci or abacuses)

  1. (obsolete) A table or tray strewn with sand, anciently used for drawing, calculating, etc. [Attested from around 1350 (1387) until around 1470.][1]
  2. A calculating table or frame; an instrument for performing arithmetical calculations by balls sliding on wires, or counters in grooves, the lowest line representing units, the second line, tens, etc. [First attested in the late 17th century.][2]
    I've heard merchants still use an abacus for adding things up in China.
  3. (architecture) The uppermost portion of the capital of a column, immediately under the architrave. [First attested in the mid 16th century.][2]
  4. A board, tray, or table, divided into perforated compartments, for holding cups, bottles, or the like; a kind of cupboard, buffet, or sideboard. [First attested in the late 18th century.][2]


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Derived terms[edit]

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  1. ^ Elliott K. Dobbie, C. William Dunmore, Robert K. Barnhart, et al. (editors), Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, 2004 [1998], ISBN 0550142304), page 2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 [1933], ISBN 978-0198605751), page 2


Alternative forms[edit]


From Ancient Greek ἄβαξ(ábaks, board)



abacus m (genitive abacī); second declension

  1. a square board
  2. sideboard
    • 70 BCE, Cicero, In Verrem II.4.35
      Ab hoc abaci vasa omnia, ut exposita fuerunt, abstulit.
      From this place he removed all the sideboard's dishes, since they had been exposed.
  3. counting board.
    • c. 62 CE, Persius, Saturae I.131
      ...nec qui abaco numeros et secto in pulvere metas / scit risisse vafer, multum gaudere paratus, / si cynico barbam petulans nonaria vellat.
      ...nor the man who has the wit to laugh at the figures on the counting board and the cones drawn in sand, ready to go off in ecstasies if a prostitute pulls a Cynic by the beard.
  4. gaming board.
    • 121 CE, Suetonius, De vita Caesarum Neronis.XXII.1
      Sed cum inter initia imperii eburneis quadrigis cotidie in abaco luderet, ad omnis etiam minimos circenses e secessu commeabat, primo clam, deinde propalam, ut nemini dubium esset eo die utique affuturum.
      But in the early stages of his rule he used to play every day on a gaming board with ivory chariots. He would also travel from his retreat to the Circus games, even the least important ones, at first in secret and then openly. As a result, no one was in any doubt that he would be present in Rome that day at least.
  5. a painted ceiling or wall panel.
    • c. 77 CE – 79 CE, Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia XXXIII.56
      Hoc autem et Attico ad lumina utuntur, ad abacos non nisi marmoroso, quoniam marmor in eo resistit amaritudini calcis.
      This and the Attic sort they used for high lights, for panels none but the marmorean kind, because the marble in it resists acridity of the lime.
  6. a panel
  7. a tray


Second declension.

Case Singular Plural
nominative abacus abacī
genitive abacī abacōrum
dative abacō abacīs
accusative abacum abacōs
ablative abacō abacīs
vocative abace abacī