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A manaschi in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan. Manaschis are storytellers who are able to recite from memory the entire Epic of Manas, a traditional epic poem that forms part of Kyrgyz orature.

Etymology 1[edit]

Blend of oral +‎ literature,[1] said to have been coined by the Ugandan linguist and literary theorist Pio Zirimu (died 1977): see the 1972 quotation.


orature (countable and uncountable, plural oratures)

  1. The oral equivalent of literature: a collection of traditional folk songs, stories, etc., that is communicated orally rather than in writing. [from 1970s]
    Synonym: oral literature
    • [1972, Wa Thiong’o [i.e., Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o], Homecoming: Essays on African and Caribbean Literature, Culture and Politics, London; Ibadan, Nigeria: Heinemann, OCLC 929467013, page 70:
      It is because of this that Mr Pio Zirimu, a Ugandan linguist and literary critic, has coined the word ‘orature’.]
    • 1978, Okike: An African Journal of New Writing, Enugu, Nigeria: Okike Magazine, ISSN 0331-0566, OCLC 263603101, page 1:
      The decolonization of the African mind and imaginagion is a job that must be done. It is a job that requires that our perceptions, our imaginations, and our literary devices be fertilized by the past literatures and oratures of the Pan-African world, and by the literatures and oratures of other lands besides Europe.
    • 1990, Leteipa Ole Sunkuli; Simon Okumba Miruka, “Introduction”, in A Dictionary of Oral Literature, Nairobi, Kenya; Kampala, Uganda: East African Educational Publishers, published 2008, →ISBN, page ix:
      As it were, Literature is often seen as a branch of Language Arts. Orature is a branch of Literature and hence inevitably falls within Language especially in as far as Language is basically oral. [] Inevitably, a good stock of the words within Orature are taken from written Literature. The text hopes to establish the interrelationship of these branches of Literature and through definition to show the specific application of these terms in Orature.
    • 1992, Gay [Alden] Wilentz, Binding Cultures: Black Women Writers in Africa and the Diaspora (Blacks in the Diaspora), Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, →ISBN:
      In the chapter on Aidoo, I note that certain genres of the orature, particularly the dilemma tales, have unresolved endings which call for community response; this is evident in the ending of Song as well.
    • 1997, Jace Weaver, “Native American Literatures and Communitism”, in That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 23:
      There is much at work in this discussion of canon and orature. As a starting point, it is worth noting that the academic discipline of English developed in the colonial era, and it should be equally patent that Eurocentric attempts to define a canon since the 19th century have been "less a statement of the superiority of the Western tradition than a vital, active instrument of Western hegemony." Limiting consideration or admission to the canon to orature is a way of continuing colonialism. It once again keeps American Indians from entering the 20th century and denies to Native literary artists who choose other media any legitimate or "authentic" Native identity.
    • 2012, Mareike Neuhaus, “What’s in a Frame?: The Significance of Relational World Bundles in Louise Bernice Halfe’s Blue Marrow”, in Susan Gingell and Wendy Roy, editors, Listening Up, Writing Down, and Looking Beyond: Interfaces of the Oral, Written, and Visual, Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, →ISBN, page 221:
      Blue Marrow by the Cree poet Louise Bernice Halfe has an intriguing textual history. [] Of the changes made to the revised edition, the completely rewritten narrative frame is particularly interesting, especially given the relevance of opening and closing frames in Aboriginal oratures and in oral traditions around the world more generally [].
    • 2015 April, Akíntúndé Akínyẹmí, “Introduction”, in Orature and Yorùbá Riddles, New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, →ISBN, page 1:
      This book takes readers into the hitherto unexplored undercurrents of one of the so-called minor genres of African orature—riddles.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Scots oratur, orature, a variant of oratour, oritour, from Middle English oritore, a variant of ōrātōrī, ōrātōrīe (room or other place for prayer or private study; chapel, church, temple; shrine), from Old French oratur, orator, oratore, oratori, oratour (modern French oratoire (oratory; oratorical)),[2] from Latin ōrātōrium, from ōrātōrius (oratorical),[3] from ōrātor (orator, speaker) (from ōrō (to deliver a speech, orate), from ōs (mouth), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁óh₃s (mouth)) + -ius (suffix forming adjectives from nouns).


orature (plural oratures)

  1. (Scotland, chiefly Christianity, archaic) Variant of oratour (a small room or chapel used for prayer and worship, or for private study; an oratory).
    • 16th century, Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, John Graham Dalyell, editor, The Cronicles of Scotland, [...] Published from Several Old Manuscripts, volume I, Edinburgh: Printed by George Ramsay and Company, for Archibald Constable and Company, []; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, published 1814, OCLC 1003869350, footnote, page 128:
      This bishop was ane wyse and godlie man, and answered the king in this maner, as after follows, saying, “Sir, I beseech your Grace, that ye take a little meat to refresh you, and I will passe to my orature and pray to God for you, and the commonwealth of this realme and cuntrie.[”]
    • 1793, [Robert Henryson], “[Troilus & Creseide.] Testament of Faire Creseide.”, in The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, [...] To which is Prefixed the Life of the Author, Edinburgh: Printed by Mundell and Son, [], OCLC 938399724; republished in Robert Anderson, editor, A Complete Edition of the Poets of Great Britain, volume I (Containing Chaucer, Surrey, Wyatt & Sackville), London: Printed for Iohn & Arthur Arch, []; and for Bell & Bradfute & I. Mundell & Co. [], 1795, OCLC 461649025, page 409:
      Yet nertheleſſe within mine orature / I ſtode, whan Titan had his bemis bright / Withdrawin doun, and ſcylid undir cure, / And faire Venus the beaute of the night, / Upraiſe, and ſette unto the weſte ful right []
    • 1804, William Godwin, “Sequel to Troilus and Creseide by Robert Henryson.—Tragedy of Shakepear on the Subject.”, in Life of Geoffrey Chaucer, the Early English Poet: [] In Four Volumes, volume I, 2nd edition, London: Printed by T[homas] Davison, []; for Richard Phillips, [], OCLC 926820841, pages 489–490:
      The author [of the poem Testament of Faire Creseide, Robert Henryson] has conceived in a very poetical manner his description of the season in which he supposes himself to have written this dolorous tragedy. The sun was in Aries; his setting was ushered in with furious storms of hail; the cold was biting and intense; and the poet sat in a solitary little building which he calls his "orature." [footnote: oratory.]


Further reading[edit]




  1. vocative masculine singular of ōrātūrus