Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A written symbol or character representing a speech sound and being a component of an alphabet.
  • noun A written symbol or character used in the graphemic representation of a word, such as the h in Thames.
  • noun A written or printed communication directed to a person or organization.
  • noun A certified document granting rights to its bearer.
  • noun Literal meaning.
  • noun Literary culture; belles-lettres.
  • noun Learning or knowledge, especially of literature.
  • noun Literature or writing as a profession.
  • noun A piece of type that prints a single character.
  • noun A specific style of type.
  • noun The characters in one style of type.
  • noun An emblem in the shape of the initial of a school awarded for outstanding performance, especially in varsity athletics.
  • intransitive verb To write letters on.
  • intransitive verb To write in letters.
  • intransitive verb To write or form letters.
  • intransitive verb To earn a school letter, as for outstanding athletic achievement.
  • idiom (to the letter) To the last detail; exactly.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun One who lets, retards, or hinders.
  • 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.
  • noun One who lets or permits.
  • noun One who lets for hire.
  • noun 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.
  • noun In printing, a type bearing an alphabetical character: as, an initial letter; broken letters.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A missive communication made by the use of letters.
  • noun 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.
  • noun An inscription.
  • noun 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.
  • noun plural Literature in general; hence, knowledge derivedfrom books; literary culture; erudition: as, the republic of letters; a man of letters.
  • noun In musical notation, same as letter-name.
  • noun 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.
  • noun 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.
  • noun See the adjectives.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun One who lets or permits; one who lets anything for hire.
  • noun Archaic. One who retards or hinders.
  • transitive verb To impress with letters; to mark with letters or words.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A written or printed communication; a message expressed in intelligible characters on something adapted to conveyance, as paper, parchment, etc.; an epistle.
  • noun obsolete A writing; an inscription.
  • noun Verbal expression; literal statement or meaning; exact signification or requirement.
  • noun (Print.) A single type; type, collectively; a style of type.
  • noun Learning; erudition.
  • noun obsolete A letter; an epistle.
  • noun (Teleg.) 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.
  • noun etc. See under Dead, Drop, etc.
  • noun a book in which copies of letters are kept.

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Old French lettre, from Latin littera, perhaps from Etruscan, from Greek diphtherā, hide, leather, writing surface.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

let +‎ -er

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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").

Examples

Comments

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  • “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

  • 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

  • "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