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From Ancient Greek ἑρμηνευτῐκός (hermēneutikós, of or for interpreting), from ἑρμηνεύω (hermēneúō, translate, interpret), from ἑρμηνεύς (hermēneús, translator, interpreter), of unknown origin; folk etymology suggests a connection with Hermes. The term was introduced c. 360 BCE by Aristotle in his text Perì Hermeneías (On Interpretation).


  • IPA(key): /hɜːɹməˈnjuːtɪks/
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hermeneutics (countable and uncountable, plural hermeneutics)

  1. The study or theory of the methodical interpretation of text, especially holy texts.
    • 1885, Thomas Seccombe, “Saunders, Richard (1613-1687?)”, in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, volume 50:
      SAUNDERS or SANDERS, RICHARD (1613–1687?), astrologer, a native of Warwickshire, was born in 1613, commenced the study of hermeneutics about 1647, and practised astrology and cheiromancy during the golden age of the pseudo-sciences in England.
    • 1885, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (original translators and editors), Arthur Cleveland Coxe (editor of American edition), Philip Schaff (also credited as editor), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I,
      I have included in this volume the four books of St. Augustin On Christian Doctrine. It is the first and best patristic work on biblical Hermeneutics, and continued for a thousand years, together with the Prefaces of Jerome, to be the chief exegetical guide. Although it is superseded as a scientific work by modern Hermeneutics and Critical Introductions to the Old and New Testaments, it is not surpassed for originality, depth and spiritual insight.
    • 1913, Anthony John Maas, “Hermeneutics”, in Catholic Encyclopedia (1913):
      Usage has restricted the meaning of hermeneutics to the science of Biblical exegesis, that is, to the collection of rules which govern the right interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Exegesis is therefore related to hermeneutics, as language is to grammar, or as reasoning is to logic.

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