Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A written symbol or character representing a speech sound and being a component of an alphabet.
  • n. A written symbol or character used in the graphemic representation of a word, such as the h in Thames. See Note at Thames.
  • n. A written or printed communication directed to a person or organization.
  • n. A certified document granting rights to its bearer. Often used in the plural.
  • n. Literal meaning: had to adhere to the letter of the law.
  • n. Literary culture; belles-lettres.
  • n. Learning or knowledge, especially of literature.
  • n. Literature or writing as a profession.
  • n. Printing A piece of type that prints a single character.
  • n. Printing A specific style of type.
  • n. Printing The characters in one style of type.
  • n. An emblem in the shape of the initial of a school awarded for outstanding performance, especially in varsity athletics.
  • transitive v. To write letters on.
  • transitive v. To write in letters.
  • intransitive v. To write or form letters.
  • intransitive v. To earn a school letter, as for outstanding athletic achievement: She lettered in three collegiate sports.
  • idiom to the letter To the last detail; exactly: followed instructions to the letter.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A symbol in an alphabet, bookstave.
  • n. A written message. See also note.
  • n. Literal meaning.
  • n. literature
  • n. A size of paper, 8½ in × 11 in (215.9 mm × 279.4 mm, US paper sizes rounded to the nearest 5 mm)
  • n. A size of paper, 215 mm × 280 mm
  • n. Short for varsity letter.
  • v. to print, inscribe, or paint letters on something.
  • v. (US, scholastic) To earn a varsity letter (award).
  • n. One who lets, or lets out.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. One who lets or permits; one who lets anything for hire.
  • n. One who retards or hinders.
  • n. A mark or character used as the representative of a sound, or of an articulation of the human organs of speech; a first element of written language.
  • n. A written or printed communication; a message expressed in intelligible characters on something adapted to conveyance, as paper, parchment, etc.; an epistle.
  • n. A writing; an inscription.
  • n. Verbal expression; literal statement or meaning; exact signification or requirement.
  • n. A single type; type, collectively; a style of type.
  • n. Learning; erudition.
  • n. A letter; an epistle.
  • n. A telegram longer than an ordinary message sent at rates lower than the standard message rate in consideration of its being sent and delivered subject to priority in service of regular messages. Such telegrams are called by the Western Union Company day letters, or night letters according to the time of sending, and by The Postal Telegraph Company day lettergrams, or night lettergrams.
  • transitive v. To impress with letters; to mark with letters or words.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To impress or engrave letters on; mark or stamp with a title or an inscription: as, to letter a book; a lettered stone or print.
  • n. One who lets or permits.
  • n. One who lets for hire.
  • n. One who lets, retards, or hinders.
  • n. A mark or sign used to represent a sound of the human voice; a conventional representation of one of the primary elements of speech; an alphabetical character.
  • n. In printing, a type bearing an alphabetical character: as, an initial letter; broken letters.
  • n. Alphabetical representation in general; characters used in writing or printing collectively; hence, in printing, movable type as constituting complete fonts: as, black-letter (either in manuscript or impression, or as type); plenty or scarcity of letter.
  • n. A missive communication made by the use of letters.
  • n. An official or legal document granting some right, authority, or privilege to the person or persons addressed or named in it: as, letters patent; letters of administration.
  • n. An inscription.
  • n. Literal or exact meaning; unglossed signification; that which is most plainly expressed by the words used: as, to adhere to the letter of the text.
  • n. plural Literature in general; hence, knowledge derivedfrom books; literary culture; erudition: as, the republic of letters; a man of letters.
  • n. In musical notation, same as letter-name.
  • n. In English law: A letter of courtesy written by the lord chancellor to any peer, peeress, or bishop against whom a bill is filed, informing the party of the complaint and requesting an appearance, sent in lieu of summons.
  • n. A letter from the sovereign addressed to a dean and chapter, naming the person whom they are required to elect as bishop. Also called royal letter. See extract under royal letter.
  • n. See the adjectives.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an award earned by participation in a school sport
  • v. mark letters on or mark with letters
  • n. a strictly literal interpretation (as distinct from the intention)
  • v. set down or print with letters
  • n. owner who lets another person use something (housing usually) for hire
  • n. a written message addressed to a person or organization
  • v. win an athletic letter
  • n. the conventional characters of the alphabet used to represent speech

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French lettre, from Latin littera, perhaps from Etruscan, from Greek diphtherā, hide, leather, writing surface.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English letter, lettre, from Old French letre, from Latin littera ("letter of the alphabet"; in plural, "epistle"), from Etruscan, from Ancient Greek διφθέρα (diphtherā). 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"). (Wiktionary)
let +‎ -er (Wiktionary)

Examples

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "As usual, the note occupied less than a page and included neither salutation nor closing, Uncle Hal's opinion being that since the letter had a direction upon it, the intended recipient was obvious, the seal indicated plainly who had written it, and he did not waste his time in writing to fools."
    —Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone (New York: Delacorte Press, 2009), 100

    December 17, 2009

  • In Robert Graves' I, Claudius this saying is attributed to a Roman whose name I can't recall. (And alas I don't own a copy of the book.)

    April 1, 2008

  • “The letter I have written today is longer than usual because I lacked the time to make it shorter.�?
    – Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

    August 28, 2007