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

  • noun A class or category.
  • noun A title; a name.
  • noun A part of a manuscript or book, such as a title, heading, or initial letter, that appears in decorative red lettering or is otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text.
  • noun A title or heading of a statute or chapter in a code of law.
  • noun Ecclesiastical A direction in a missal, hymnal, or other liturgical book.
  • noun An authoritative rule or direction.
  • noun A short commentary or explanation covering a broad subject.
  • noun Red ocher.
  • adjective Red or reddish.
  • adjective Written in red.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To adorn with red; rubricate.
  • To make the subject of a rubric; enjoin observances regarding, as a saint of the calendar.
  • noun Red ocher; red chalk; reddle.
  • noun In old manuscripts and printed books, and still sometimes in the latter, some small part distinguished from the rest of the matter by being written or printed in red, as an initial letter, a title or heading, a liturgical direction, etc.
  • noun Anything of a kind which in manuscripts or books it was formerly customary to put in red, as the title of a subject or division, the heading of a statute, a guiding rule or direction, the first letter of a chapter, etc.
  • noun Specifically A liturgical direction or injunction in an office-book such as a prayer-book, missal, or breviary; a rule prescribed for the conduct of religious worship, or of any part of a religious service, printed in the Roman Catholic, Greek, and sometimes other office-books in red characters; also, collectively, the body of such rules.
  • noun A flourish after a signature; a paraph.
  • Red; of a red or reddish color.
  • Pertaining to rubrics; made the subject of a rubric; rubrical; marked in red characters.

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

  • transitive verb rare To adorn ith red; to redden; to rubricate.
  • adjective Colored in, or marked with, red; placed in rubrics.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to the rubric or rubrics.
  • noun A titlepage, or part of it, especially that giving the date and place of printing; also, the initial letters, etc., when printed in red.
  • noun (Law books) The title of a statute; -- so called as being anciently written in red letters.
  • noun (Liturgies) The directions and rules for the conduct of service, formerly written or printed in red; hence, also, an ecclesiastical or episcopal injunction; -- usually in the plural.
  • noun Hence, that which is established or settled, as by authority; a thing definitely settled or fixed.

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

  • noun A heading in a book highlighted in red.
  • noun A title of a category or a class.
  • noun An established rule or custom, a guideline.
  • noun education A printed set of scoring criteria for evaluating student work and for giving feedback.
  • adjective Coloured or marked with red; placed in rubrics.
  • adjective Of or relating to the rubric or rubrics; rubrical.
  • verb transitive To adorn with red; to redden.

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

  • noun an authoritative rule of conduct or procedure
  • noun directions for the conduct of Christian church services (often printed in red in a prayer book)
  • noun category name
  • noun a heading that names a statute or legislative bill; may give a brief summary of the matters it deals with
  • noun a title or heading that is printed in red or in a special type
  • verb adorn with ruby red color
  • noun an explanation or definition of an obscure word in a text


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

Middle English rubrike, heading, title, from Old French rubrique, from Latin rubrīca, red chalk , from ruber, rubr-, red; see reudh- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Through Old French rubrique, from Latin rubrīca ("red ochre"), the substance used to make red letters, from ruber ("red"), from Proto-Indo-European *reudh-.



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  • It would be nice if we could add a picture of an illuminated manuscript to illustrate the etymology. (Or is it not so much a manuscript but an ancient legal document? Hard to tell ...)

    December 20, 2009

  • A fascinating etymology for an an annoyingly overused word.

    December 20, 2009