letter

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See also: Letter

English[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Cursive script letters (sense 1) of the English alphabet, together with some punctuation marks and numbers
A letter (sense 2) written in the early 19th century

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English letter, lettre, from Old French letre, from Latin littera (letter of the alphabet"; in plural, "epistle), from Etruscan, from Ancient Greek διφθέρᾱ (diphthérā, tablet). Displaced native Middle English bocstaf, bookstave (letter, alphabetic symbol) (from Old English bōcstæf (alphabetic symbol, written character)), Middle English bocrune, bocroune (letter, written character) (from Old English bōc (book) + rūn (letter, rune)), Middle English writrune, writroune (letter, document) (from Old English writ (letter, epistle) + rūn (letter, rune)), Old English ǣrendbōc (letter, message), Old English ǣrendġewrit (letter, written message). Doublet of diphtheria.

Alternative forms[edit]

Noun[edit]

letter (plural letters)

  1. A symbol in an alphabet.
    There are twenty-six letters in the English alphabet.
  2. A written or printed communication, generally longer and more formal than a note.
    I wrote a letter to my sister about my life.
    • 1692, William Walsh, “Preface”, in Letters and Poems, Amorous and Gallant:
      The style of letters ought to be free, easy, and natural.
    • 1922, Ben Travers, chapter 1, in A Cuckoo in the Nest[1]:
      He read the letter aloud. Sophia listened with the studied air of one for whom, even in these days, a title possessed some surreptitious allurement.
    • 1977, Agatha Christie, chapter 4, in An Autobiography, part I, London: Collins, →ISBN:
      An indulgent playmate, Grannie would lay aside the long scratchy-looking letter she was writing (heavily crossed ‘to save notepaper’) and enter into the delightful pastime of ‘a chicken from Mr Whiteley's’.
  3. The literal meaning of something, as distinguished from its intended and remoter meaning (often contrasted with the spirit).
    • 1650, Jeremy Taylor, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living:
      We must observe the letter of the law, without doing violence to the reason of the law and the intention of the lawgiver.
    • 1847, Alfred Tennyson, The Princess: A Medley, London: Edward Moxon, [], OCLC 2024748, (please specify the page number, or |part=prologue, I to VII, or conclusion):
      I broke the letter of it to keep the sense.
    • 2009 February 23, “Euro MP expenses 'can reach £1m'”, in BBC[2]:
      Some MEPs from some countries may have pocketed £2m more than I have by observing the letter but not the spirit of the rules.
  4. (plural) Literature.
    Benjamin Franklin was multiskilled – a scientist, politician and a man of letters.
  5. (law) A division unit of a piece of law marked by a letter of the alphabet.
    Letter (b) constitutes an exception to this provision.
  6. (US, uncountable) A size of paper, 8½ in × 11 in (215.9 mm × 279.4 mm, US paper sizes rounded to the nearest 5 mm).
  7. (Canada, uncountable) A size of paper, 215 mm × 280 mm.
  8. (US, scholastic) Clipping of varsity letter.
  9. (printing, dated) A single type; type, collectively; a style of type.
    • 1644 February 8, John Evelyn, Diary:
      Under these buildings [] was the king's printing house, and that famous letter so much esteemed.
Synonyms[edit]
Hyponyms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
Translations[edit]

Verb[edit]

letter (third-person singular simple present letters, present participle lettering, simple past and past participle lettered)

  1. (transitive) To print, inscribe, or paint letters on something.
  2. (intransitive, US, scholastic) To earn a varsity letter (award).
Translations[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

let +‎ -er.

Alternative forms[edit]

Noun[edit]

letter (plural letters)

  1. One who lets, or lets out.
    the letter of a room
    a blood-letter
  2. (archaic) One who retards or hinders.
Translations[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Anagrams[edit]


Afrikaans[edit]

Afrikaans Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia af

Etymology[edit]

From Dutch letter, from Middle Dutch lettere, from Old French lettre, from Latin littera.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

letter (plural letters, diminutive lettertjie)

  1. letter (letter of the alphabet)

Derived terms[edit]


Dutch[edit]

Dutch Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia nl

Etymology[edit]

From Middle Dutch lettere, from Old French lettre, from Latin littera.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

letter f (plural letters, diminutive lettertje n)

  1. letter (letter of the alphabet)
  2. (obsolete) letter (written message)

Derived terms[edit]

Descendants[edit]

  • Afrikaans: letter
  • Indonesian: leter

Norwegian Bokmål[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

Verb[edit]

letter

  1. present of lette

Etymology 2[edit]

Noun[edit]

letter m

  1. indefinite plural of lett (non-standard since 2005)

Norwegian Nynorsk[edit]

Noun[edit]

letter m

  1. indefinite plural of lett (non-standard since 2012)

Swedish[edit]

Noun[edit]

letter

  1. indefinite plural of lett