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See also: łiterature


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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English literature, from Old French littérature, from Latin literatura or litteratura, from littera (letter), from Etruscan, from Ancient Greek διφθέρᾱ (diphthérā, tablet). Displaced native Old English bōccræft.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈlɪt.ə.ɹə.t͡ʃə(ɹ)/, /ˈlɪt.ɹə.t͡ʃə(ɹ)/
  • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈlɪt.ɚ.ə.t͡ʃɚ/, [ˈlɪɾ.ɚ.ə.t͡ʃɚ], /ˈlɪt.ɹə.t͡ʃɚ/, [ˈlɪt͡ʃ.ɹə.t͡ʃɚ], /ˈlɪt.ɚ.t͡ʃɚ/
    • (file)
  • (Midwestern US) IPA(key): /ˈlɪt.ə.t͡ʃɚ/


literature (usually uncountable, plural literatures)

  1. The body of all written works.
  2. The collected creative writing of a nation, people, group, or culture.
  3. (usually preceded by the) All the papers, treatises, etc. published in academic journals on a particular subject.
    • 1988, Andrew Radford, chapter 7, in Transformational grammar: a first course, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, page 373:
      The obvious question to ask at this point is: ‘Why posit the existence of a set of Thematic Relations (THEME, AGENT, INSTRUMENT, etc.) distinct from constituent structure relations?ʼ The answer given in the relevant literature is that a variety of linguistic phenomena can be accounted for in a more principled way in terms of Thematic Functions than in terms of constituent structure relations.
    • 2018, James Lambert, “A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity”, in English World-Wide[1], page 3:
      In fact, information on when each of the terms first appeared in English, and if obsolete, how long they persisted, is entirely absent from the literature.
  4. Written fiction of a high standard.
    • 2008, Adam Cadre
      However, even “literary” science fiction rarely qualifies as literature, because it treats characters as sets of traits rather than as fully realized human beings with unique life stories.
  5. (obsolete) Literacy; ability to read and write.
    • 1854, Charles Dickens, Hard Times: A Novel:
      They all assumed to be mighty rakish and knowing, they were not very tidy in their private dresses, they were not at all orderly in their domestic arrangements, and the combined literature of the whole company would have produced but a poor letter on any subject.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • "literature" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 183.