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

  • n. The body of written works of a language, period, or culture.
  • n. Imaginative or creative writing, especially of recognized artistic value: "Literature must be an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity” ( Rebecca West).
  • n. The art or occupation of a literary writer.
  • n. The body of written work produced by scholars or researchers in a given field: medical literature.
  • n. Printed material: collected all the available literature on the subject.
  • n. Music All the compositions of a certain kind or for a specific instrument or ensemble: the symphonic literature.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The body of all written works.
  • n. The collected creative writing of a nation, people, group, or culture.
  • n. All the papers, treatises, etc. published in academic journals on a particular subject.
  • n. Written fiction of a high standard.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Learning; acquaintance with letters or books.
  • n. The collective body of literary productions, embracing the entire results of knowledge and fancy preserved in writing; also, the whole body of literary productions or writings upon a given subject, or in reference to a particular science or branch of knowledge, or of a given country or period
  • n. The class of writings distinguished for beauty of style or expression, as poetry, essays, or history, in distinction from scientific treatises and works which contain positive knowledge; belles-lettres.
  • n. The occupation, profession, or business of doing literary work.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Learning; instruction in letters.
  • n. The use of letters for the promulgation of thought or knowledge; the communication of facts, ideas, or emotions by means of books or other modes of publication; literary work or production: as, the profession of literature.
  • n. Recorded thought or knowledge; the aggregate of books and other publications, in either an unlimited or a limited sense; the collective body of literary productions in general, or within a particular sphere, period, country, language, etc.: as, the literature of a science, art, or profession; Greek, Roman, or Elizabethan literature.
  • n. In a restricted sense, the class of writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, romance, history, biography, and essays, in contradistinction to scientific works, or those written expressly to impart knowledge.
  • n. Synonyms Literature, Learning, Scholarship, Erudition, Lore. Literature, the more polished or artistic class of written compositions, or the critical knowledge or appreciation of them; learning, large knowledge acquired by study, especially in the literature, history, or the like, of the past; scholarship, learning viewed as the possession of a professional or amateur scholar or student; erudition, scholastic or the more recondite sort of knowledge obtained by profound research; lore, a rather poetic word for erudition, often in a special department: as, versed in the lore of magic.
  • n. Specifically. In scientific usage, the body of monographs, original papers, etc., dealing with a particular topic: as, the literature of the scale-insects and mealy bugs; the literature of the reaction experiment.
  • n. Printed matter of any kind intended for circulation, as the circulars and pamphlets of a political party, of an insurance company, or of a quack advertiser.

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

  • n. published writings in a particular style on a particular subject
  • n. the humanistic study of a body of literature
  • n. the profession or art of a writer
  • n. creative writing of recognized artistic value


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

Middle English, book learning, from Old French litterature, from Latin litterātūra, from litterātus, lettered; see literate.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin literatura or litteratura.



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  • Or perhaps figuratively?

    December 14, 2007

  • Sadly debased to include things like sales literature, technical literature and more or less anything you can get printed that isn't literature. Makes my blood boil literally.

    December 14, 2007