Definitions

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

  • noun A manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely scraped off or erased and often legible.
  • noun An object or area that has extensive evidence of or layers showing activity or use.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • noun Any inscribed slat, etc., particularly a monumental brass, which has been turned and engraved with new inscriptions and devices on the reverse side.

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

  • noun 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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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.
  • noun archaic Monumental brasses that have been reused by engraving of the blank back side.
  • noun astronomy Circular features believed to be lunar craters that have been obliterated by later volcanic activity.
  • noun geology Geological features thought to be related to features or effects below the surface.
  • noun computing Memory that has been erased and re-written.
  • noun Something bearing the traces of an earlier, erased form.
  • verb To scrape clean, as in parchment, for reuse.
  • verb On paper: to reuse, often by erasure or change of pen direction or color. Especially fueled by Earth Day.

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

  • noun 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

Etymologies

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

[Latin palimpsēstum, from Greek palimpsēston, neuter of palimpsēstos, scraped again : palin, again; see kwel- in Indo-European roots + psēn, to scrape.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin palimpsēstus, from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος (palímpsestos, "scraped again").

Examples

  • So an architectural palimpsest is the ghostly remains of other buildings or parts of buildings that are still apparent on existing buildings.

    Archive 2007-10-01

  • So an architectural palimpsest is the ghostly remains of other buildings or parts of buildings that are still apparent on existing buildings.

    Palimpsests As Metaphor

  • 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:

    Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers

  • So rich a palimpsest is French civilization, so varied is

    In the Heart of the Vosges And Other Sketches by a "Devious Traveller"

  • An obliterated manuscript written over again is called a palimpsest, and the man who can restore and read it a paleographist.

    The Book-Hunter A New Edition, with a Memoir of the Author

  • The parchment, known as a palimpsest, contains the only known copies of some of Archimedes' works.

    SFGate: Top News Stories

  • The graphical front-end for DeviceKit is called palimpsest and provides several nice management capabilities.

    LXer Linux News

  • 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.

    What's Going On?

  • 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.

    Genre Fiction

  • 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.

    Comedy in Literature

Comments

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  • Discovered in The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks

    January 8, 2007

  • My favorite word in the English language, thanks to Umberto Eco.

    December 7, 2007

  • Used in Italian (palinsesto) simply to mean the programming of TV shows.

    December 28, 2007

  • I think of the country as a kind of palimpsest scrawled over with the comings and goings of people, the erasure of time already in process even as the marks of passage are put down. Wendell Berry "A Native Hill"

    July 19, 2008

  • This reminds me of powder pimpalimpimp... for some reason...

    October 1, 2008

  • "All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary." 1984 by George Orwell

    October 7, 2008

  • I like a plimpsest much better.

    January 13, 2009

  • We were always told, in Landscape Archaeology, that a palimpsest was the whole landscape, in its infinite complexity, spread out before us.

    April 2, 2009

  • Interesting usage on landaulet.

    May 1, 2009