American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible.
- n. An object, place, or area that reflects its history: "Spaniards in the sixteenth century . . . saw an ocean moving south . . . through a palimpsest of bayous and distributary streams in forested paludal basins” ( John McPhee).
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A parchment or other writing-material from which one writing has been erased or rubbed out to make room for another; hence, the new writing or manuscript upon such a parchment.
- n. Any inscribed slat, etc., particularly a monumental brass, which has been turned and engraved with new inscriptions and devices on the reverse side.
- n. A manuscript or document that has been erased or scraped clean, for reuse of the paper, parchment, vellum, or other medium on which it was written. Many historical texts have been recovered using ultraviolet light and other technologies to read the erased writing.
- n. archaic Monumental brasses that have been reused by engraving of the blank back side.
- n. astronomy Circular features believed to be lunar craters that have been obliterated by later volcanic activity.
- n. geology Geological features thought to be related to features or effects below the surface.
- n. computing Memory that has been erased and re-written.
- n. Something bearing the traces of an earlier, erased form.
- v. To scrape clean, as in parchment, for reuse.
- v. On paper: to reuse, often by erasure or change of pen direction or color. Especially fueled by Earth Day.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. A parchment which has been written upon twice, the first writing having been erased to make place for the second. The erasures of ancient writings were usually carried on in monasteries, to allow the production of ecclesiastical texts, such as copies of church services and lives of the saints. The difficulty of recovering the original text varied with the process used to prepare the parchment for a fresh writing; the original texts on parchments which had been washed with lime-water and dried were easily recovered by a chemical process, but those erased by scraping the parchment and bleaching are difficult to interpret. Most of the manuscripts underlying the palimpsests that have been revived are fragmentary, but some are of great historical value. One Syriac version of the Four Gospels was discovered in 1895 in St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai by Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis. See also the notes below.
- n. a manuscript (usually written on papyrus or parchment) on which more than one text has been written with the earlier writing incompletely erased and still visible
- From Latin palimpsēstus, from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος (palímpsestos, "scraped again"). (Wiktionary)
- Latin palimpsēstum, from Greek palimpsēston, neuter of palimpsēstos, scraped again : palin, again, + psēn, to scrape. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“So an architectural palimpsest is the ghostly remains of other buildings or parts of buildings that are still apparent on existing buildings.”
“The description of this granite palimpsest is best given in Mr. Petrie's own words, as written in his weekly report at the time of the discovery:”
“So rich a palimpsest is French civilization, so varied is”
“An obliterated manuscript written over again is called a palimpsest, and the man who can restore and read it a paleographist.”
“The parchment, known as a palimpsest, contains the only known copies of some of Archimedes' works.”
“The graphical front-end for DeviceKit is called palimpsest and provides several nice management capabilities.”
“It acts as a kind of palimpsest over which the literary writer might inscribe his/her own variations on "criminal" behavior and its sources in unruly human impulses.”
“Much of the prestige bump is attributable to Spellbound, the 2002 documentary that followed contestants from the 72nd bee as they negotiated such linguistic land mines as "palimpsest," "heleoplankton" and "akropodion.”
“The pages of the older books became the sheaths of a newer one, thus a palimpsest which is pronounced PAL-imp-sest and is Greek for ''rubbed again''.”
“a palimpsest is my brain; such a palimpsest, O reader! is yours.”
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