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Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris


Middle English librarie, from Anglo-Norman librarie, from Old French librairie, from Latin librarium (bookcase, chest for books), from librarius (concerning books), from liber (the inner bark of trees; paper, parchment, book), probably derived from a Proto-Indo-European base *leub(ʰ)- (to strip, to peel). Displaced native Middle English bochous, bokhus (literally book house), from Old English bōchūs.

Romance cognates often mean “bookshop” instead: French librairie, Italian libreria, Spanish librería, Romanian librărie and Portuguese livraria. This is a relatively recent innovation (16th century in French), which ended up displacing the earlier sense.


The non-RP UK pronunciation /ˈlaɪbɹi/ (whence the eye dialect spelling libry) exhibits haplology.


library (plural libraries)

  1. An institution which holds books and/or other forms of media for use by the public or qualified people often lending them out, as well as providing various other services for its users.
    Synonym: (nonstandard) bookhouse
    Coordinate terms: bookshop, bookstore
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light:Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, page 11:
      Libraries have been burnt and whole religious movements wiped out because their belief and myths have been considered to be of dubious origin by the upholders of orthodoxy[.]
    • 2012, Stephen King, 11/22/63, page 133:
      When all else fails, give up and go to the library.
  2. (by extension) Any institution that lends out its goods for use by the public or a community.
  3. A collection of books or other forms of stored information.
    • 1896, Alfred Newton, A Dictionary of Birds, page 71:
      A small library of books has been written on the subject.
    • 2008 May 15, Alberto Manguel, “A 30,000-Volume Window on the World”, in New York Times[1]:
      My library is not a single beast but a composite of many others, a fantastic animal made up of the several libraries built and then abandoned, over and over again, throughout my life. I can’t remember a time in which I didn’t have a library of some sort. The present one is a sort of multilayered autobiography, each book holding the moment in which I opened it for the first time.
  4. An equivalent collection of analogous information in a non-printed form, e.g. record library.
  5. A room dedicated to storing books.
  6. (programming) A collection of software routines that provide functionality to be incorporated into or used by a computer program.
    Coordinate term: framework
    • 2014, John Paul Mueller, Jeff Cogswell, C++ All-in-One For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 307:
      A static library is much like any other library in that it contains a bunch of code for your application to use.
  7. (genetics) A collection of DNA material from a single organism or relative to a single disease.
  8. (card games) The deck or draw pile.
    • 1994, The Magic, the Gathering: Pocket Players' Guide, →ISBN, page 167:
      At the conclusion of every duel, each player must show the remaining cards in his or her hand to the opponent to verify that no Restricted List duplicate cards appear there (e.g., to prove that a second Time Walk wasn't drawn from his library).
    • 2006, Michael J. Flores, Deckade: 10 Years of Decks, Thoughts, and Theory!, →ISBN, page 228:
      But why did very good players shy away from cards that are so obviously good from our perspectives? One very real possibility is that library manipulation/increased selection and redundancy tech had not yet been established - after all, many players were amazed at Lestree's use of the Sylvan Library to draw extra cards!
    • 2006, John Kaufeld, Jeremy Smith, Trading Card Games For Dummies, →ISBN, page 50:
      To win a game of Magic, you must achieve one of two chief goals: either be the first to reduce your opponent's life total from 20 to 0, or force him or her to attempt to draw a card from his or her library when there are no cards left in it.
    • 2010, Shirley R. Steinberg, Michael Kehler, Lindsay Cornish, Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia, →ISBN, page 418:
      The deck becomes the draw pile, also called the library, from which each player repeatedly draws cards for his or her own hand, cards that are gradually included into the game.
    • 2010, Zhigeng Pan, Maiga Chang, Adrian David Cheok, Transactions on Edutainment III, →ISBN, page 119:
      At this phase, most of TCGs only allow players drawing card(s) from a pack which is also called library or deck.


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