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

  • n. The beginning or opening words of the text of a medieval manuscript or early printed book.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The first few words of a text, especially its first line.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • ‘(Here) beginneth’: the first word in a preliminary formula common in medieval manuscripts and early printed books, introducing the title or name of the work or of the preface or other part of it: as, “Incipit preambulum”; “Incipit prologus in libellum qui dicitur Promptorius Parvulorum,” etc. Compare explicit, verb
  • n. The introductory words of a book or section of a book. Compare explicit, n.


From Latin, third person sing. present tense of incipere, to begin; see inception.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin incipit ("it begins") (Wiktionary)



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  • –noun
    1. the introductory words or opening phrases in the text of a medieval manuscript or an early printed book.
    2. Music. the first words of a chanted liturgical text, as that of a Gregorian chant or certain medieval motets.

    January 31, 2009