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

  • noun An unbound printed work, usually with a paper cover.
  • noun A short essay or treatise, usually on a current topic, published without a binding.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To write a pamphlet or pamphlets.
  • noun A manuscript consisting of one sheet or of a few sheets of paper or parchment stitched (or otherwise fastened) together.
  • noun A printed work consisting of a few sheets of paper stitched together, but not bound; now, in a restricted technical sense, eight or more pages of printed matter (not exceeding five sheets) stitched or sewed, with or without a thin paper wrapper or cover.
  • noun In the sixteenth century, in England, a fascicle comprising a few printed sheets stitched together, containing news-ballads and short poems on popular subjects: also known as a news-book, which developed later into the newspaper.
  • noun A short treatise or essay, generally controversial, especially one on some subject of temporary interest which excites public attention at the time of its appearance; a writing intended to publish one's views on a particular question, or to attack the views of another.

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

  • noun A writing; a book.
  • noun A small book consisting of a few sheets of printed paper, stitched together, often with a paper cover, but not bound; a short essay or written discussion, usually on a subject of current interest.
  • intransitive verb rare To write a pamphlet or pamphlets.

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

  • noun A small booklet of printed informational matter, often unbound, having only a paper cover.

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

  • noun a small book usually having a paper cover
  • noun a brief treatise on a subject of interest; published in the form of a booklet


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

[Middle English pamflet, from Medieval Latin pamfletus, from Pamphiletus, diminutive of Pamphilus, amatory Latin poem of the 1100s, from Greek pamphilos, beloved by all : pan-, pan- + philos, beloved.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From New Latin panfletus ("small, unbound treatise")


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  • Why do people find this word "ugly"? I think that if you are going to express such a strong opinion through a tag ("ugliest", "ugly"), you should at least explain why you think it deserves such a label.

    This word, by the way, comes into English from the name Pamphilet, an adaptation of the name of a popular love poem, written in Latin, from the 12th century, Pamphilus, seu de Amore ("Pamphilus, or, On Love"), which circulated through Europe as a small booklet, so that eventually any small booklet became known as a pamphlet. The name Pamphilus, a compound of the Greek elements pan- and -phil, means "loved by all". Apparently the word he gave his name to isn't.

    February 3, 2009

  • ugly has been used 32 times by onegoodbee, 35 times total.

    ugliesthas been used 32 times by onegoodbee, 32 times total.

    February 3, 2009

  • I like the word. Anyway, I think onegoodbee does explain, in a way, on his/her "Ugliest Words Ever" list.

    No accounting for taste. :-)

    February 3, 2009

  • Not really, ReeseTee. All he/she indicates in the list description is a reluctance to utter these words. There is no reflection on why the lister/tagger finds these words, and pamphlet in particular, ugly and unutterable. Is this the result of some childhood trauma? A bad experience with door-to-door proselytizers? Is it the rare appearance of the sequence -mphl-? Or the sound /-mfl-/? Is it the perhaps unexpected realization that the two p's are pronounced so differently? I have no problem with someone finding this or any other word "ugly" and even tagging it accordingly (and not only "ugly" but also "ugliest"!), but it would be good if they could provide some explanation for such strong antipathy, or at least indicate their own bewilderment over it, such as by saying, "I don't know why, but I just hate this word!" That might precipitate a discussion that could well prove profitable for the tagger him-/herself.

    February 4, 2009

  • Well, I did say "in a way." :-)

    February 4, 2009

  • I now have a whole new appreciation for the word. Thanks rolig! As a producer of pamphlets, brochures, fliers, & what-have-you, for many years now, I'm happy to learn of its romantic side!

    September 16, 2009

  • I missed this conversation 7 mos. ago, apparently... I like that it's got a -mphl- in it. It's a great word, always reminds me of Thomas Paine (go! go!), and thanks, rolig, for the etymological lesson. I had no idea. :)

    September 16, 2009

  • Right on c_b, I agree on all accounts--I like the sound and feel of this word, and I love its association with direct democracy and Paine in particular.

    A certain right-wing demagogue has tarnished the name of one of Paine's best-known pamphlets, Common Sense by appropriating it as the title of one of his own books, which is annoying, but also amusing. He must not have read The Age of Reason, a full-throated attack on organized religion and not the kind of thing most American conservatives want to be associated with.

    Thomas Paine died in New York City, in the West Village, around the corner from where I used to live—there's a plaque on the building in which he died.

    September 16, 2009

  • One of the most interesting things about Thomas Paine is that he's been appropriated by either extreme of the political spectrum over the years. A hero during the Revolutionary War (in fact it's not really an exaggeration to say he saved the Continental army in 1776-7), afterwards he was an embarrassment to Americans for years, when people wanted the country to be seen as reasonable rather than radical. But the man was an unabashed revolutionary in so many senses of the word, bordering on being an anarchist (by the standards of the 18th century, which is to say: not what we think of as an anarchist).

    And how the pendulum swings! Now he's been 'adopted' in recent years by right-wingers seeking to shore up their own version of what the Founders believed. And as John points out, far too often they don't look at the man's corpus of writings, or his life, but pull what they find relevant and ignore the rest.

    Occasionally this sort of thing makes me glad I flail against tide of history illiteracy—and I do find the concept of a Mythic America fascinating: it's what these people claiming Paine are responding to rather than any actual history—but mostly it just makes me so tired.

    John—it's interesting you mention that book. Whenever I see it on bookstore shelves I turn it face down.

    I haven't seen the plaque, but next trip to NYC I'm getting a photo of it.

    September 16, 2009

  • I guess this deserves a dorkout tag now.... sorry...

    September 16, 2009

  • I like the mouth-feel of this word too. It for some reason reminds me a delicious dainty one might find in a European confectionery... Saying the word sends me to another continent, and calls up sights and smells of the lovely desserts that unhurried travel brings...

    September 16, 2009

  • I love it when c_b dorks out on history. :-)

    September 17, 2009

  • Me too. :-)

    September 17, 2009

  • Well, in that case, glad to be of service. :)

    September 17, 2009