From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search
See also: Epistle



PIE word

The noun is derived from Middle English epistel, epistole, pistel (letter; literary work in letter form; written legend or story; spoken communication; (Christianity) one of the letters by an apostle in the New Testament; extract from such a letter read as part of the Mass) [and other forms],[1] and then partly:[2]

The verb is derived from the noun.[3]



epistle (plural epistles)

  1. A literary composition in the form of a letter or series of letters, especially one in verse.
  2. (chiefly literary or humorous) A letter, especially one which is formal or issued publicly.
    1. (specifically, historical) Chiefly with a qualifying word, as in epistle dedicatory: a letter of dedication addressed to a patron or reader published as a preface to a literary work.
  3. (Christianity)
    1. One of the books of the New Testament which was originally a letter issued by an apostle to an individual or a community.
      • a. 1632 (date written), John Donne, “To Sr. G. M.”, in John Donne [the Younger], editor, Letters to Severall Persons of Honour: [], London: [] J. Fletcher for Richard Marriot, [], published 1651, →OCLC, page 106:
        The Evangiles and Acts, teach us vvhat to beleeve, but the Epiſtles of the Apoſtles vvhat to do.
      • 1695, [John Locke], The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures, London: [] Awnsham and John Churchil, [], →OCLC, page 190:
        [T]he Doctrine of Faith, and Myſtery of Salvation, vvas more fully explained, in the Epiſtles vvrit by the Apoſtles.
      • 1956 November, Werner Keller, “In the Steps of St. Paul”, in William Neil, transl., The Bible as History: Archaeology Confirms the Book of Books, London: Hodder & Stoughton, →OCLC, page 360:
        Even last century scholars had begun to search for the cities in Asia Minor whose names have become so familiar to the Christian world through the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul. Where were the places whose inhabitants received the famous Epistle to the Galatians?
    2. An extract from a New Testament epistle (sense 3.1) or book other than a gospel which is read during a church service, chiefly the Eucharist.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • (New Testament book; extract read during a church service): Epistle


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


See also[edit]


epistle (third-person singular simple present epistles, present participle epistling, simple past and past participle epistled)

  1. (transitive)
    1. (chiefly literary or humorous) To write (something) in, or in the form of, a letter.
    2. (chiefly literary or humorous, archaic) To write a letter to (someone).
    3. (rare) To write (something) as an introduction or preface to a literary work; also, to provide (a literary work) with an introduction or preface.
      • 1671, John Milton, “Samson Agonistes, []. Of that Sort of Dramatic Poem which is Call’d Tragedy.”, in Paradise Regain’d. A Poem. In IV Books. To which is Added, Samson Agonistes, London: [] J. M[acock] for John Starkey [], →OCLC, page 4:
        And though antient Tragedy uſe no Prologue, yet uſing ſometimes, in caſe of ſelf defence, or explanation, that vvhich Martial calls an Epiſtle; in behalf of this Tragedy coming forth after the antient manner, much different from vvhat among us paſſes for beſt, thus much before-hand may be Epiſtl'd; that Chorus is here introduc'd after the Greek manner, not antient only but modern, and ſtill in uſe among the Italians.
  2. (intransitive, chiefly literary or humorous)
    1. To write a letter.
    2. To communicate with someone through a letter.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ epistel, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ epistle, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2023; epistle, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ epistle, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023.

Further reading[edit]