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

  • n. A reading desk with a slanted top holding the books from which scriptural passages are read during a church service.
  • n. A stand that serves as a support for the notes or books of a speaker.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A stand with a slanted top used to support a bible from which passages are read during a church service.
  • n. A similar stand to support a lecturer's notes.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A choir desk, or reading desk, in some churches, from which the lections, or Scripture lessons, are chanted or read.
  • n. A reading desk, usually in the form of a stand with a slanted top that holds books or lecture notes at a height convenient for reading by a speaker who is standing. A modern lectern may be of adjustable height, and be fitted with a light to illuminate the material on the desk, and sometimes a microphone or other electrical equipment for use of a speaker.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A reading-desk in a church; especially, the desk from which the lessons are read at daily prayer.
  • n. A writing-desk or -table.

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

  • n. desk or stand with a slanted top used to hold a text at the proper height for a lecturer


Middle English lettorne, lectorn, from Old French lettrun, from Medieval Latin lēctrīnum, from Late Latin lēctrum, from Latin lēctus, past participle of legere, to read; see leg- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
15th century partial re-Latinization of early 14th century Middle English lettorne, lettron, from Old French leitrun, from Medieval Latin lectrinum, from Late Latin lectrum, from lectus (from whence also lecture), form of Latin legō ("I read"). (Wiktionary)



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

  • I find myself getting angry whenever I hear someone use the word "podium" to refer to a lectern. We already have a perfectly good word for lecterns, so why not just use it? Calling a lectern a podium seems so gratuitous and pointless.

    But, on reflection, it's not gratuitous. In all likelihood, people just don't know the word "lectern", and so they're using the only word they do know that describes the object in question. We can't fault them for that, can we?

    And I suppose I needn't worry that "podium" will soon have two meanings, because the original meaning of "podium" (an elevated platform for a public speaker to stand on) appears to be dead. Ask a typical English speaker what a "podium" is, and he or she will probably describe a lectern, not an elevated platform. And we have the word "dais" to describe elevated platforms, so I needn't worry that that particular concept will become nameless.

    It all makes logical sense when I type it out like this, but nevertheless, I know I'm still going to fret about it. :-/

    July 8, 2012


    January 22, 2011