(redirected from Letter (disambiguation))
Also found in: Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


a. A written symbol or character representing a speech sound and being a component of an alphabet.
b. A written symbol or character used in the graphemic representation of a word, such as the h in Thames. See Note at Thames.
2. A written or printed communication directed to a person or organization.
3. often letters A certified document granting rights to its bearer.
4. Literal meaning: had to adhere to the letter of the law.
5. letters(used with a sing. verb)
a. Literary culture; belles-lettres.
b. Learning or knowledge, especially of literature.
c. Literature or writing as a profession.
6. Printing
a. A piece of type that prints a single character.
b. A specific style of type.
c. The characters in one style of type.
7. An emblem in the shape of the initial of a school awarded for outstanding performance, especially in varsity athletics.
v. let·tered, let·ter·ing, let·ters
1. To write letters on: lettered the paper.
2. To write in letters: lettered our name on the mailbox.
1. To write or form letters.
2. To earn a school letter, as for outstanding athletic achievement: She lettered in three collegiate sports.
to the letter
To the last detail; exactly: followed instructions to the letter.

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

let′ter·er n.
Synonyms: letter, epistle, memorandum, missive, note
These nouns denote a written communication directed to another: received a letter of complaint; the Epistles of the New Testament; a memorandum outlining the attendance policy; a missive of condolence; a thank-you note.


n (functioning as plural or singular)
1. (Education) literary knowledge, ability, or learning: a man of letters.
2. (Education) literary culture in general
3. (Education) an official title, degree, etc, indicated by an abbreviation: letters after one's name.



climb Parnassus To pursue the arts, particularly poetry; to court the Muses. Parnassus, a mountain in central Greece near Delphi, was sacred to Apollo and the Muses. It is thus identified with literary endeavors such as the Muses would inspire.

Grub Street Literary hacks or drudges collectively. This expression takes its name from Grub Street (now Milton Street) in London. The area was once a haven for poor, inferior writers and literary hacks. Grub Street, which dates from at least 1630, is also used adjectivally to mean ‘inferior, low-grade, poor.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson used the expression in this passage from Society and Solitude:

Now and then, by rarest luck, in some foolish Grub Street is the gem we want.

hack A drudge, especially a literary one; a writer or artist who denies his creative talent and does inferior, unoriginal, dull work in an effort to attain commercial and financial success. An abbreviation of hackney, this term originally referred to a horse for hire as well as to the driver of a hackney coach or carriage. This last meaning of hackgave rise to the term’s current meaning.

potboiler An inferior literary or artistic work executed solely for the purpose of boiling the pot ‘earning a living’; a literary or artistic hack, such as produces potboilers.

Such … was the singular and even prosaic origin of the “Ancient Mariner” … surely the most sublime of “potboilers” to be found in all literature. (Henry Duff Traill, Coleridge, 1884)

See also boil the pot, SUBSISTENCE.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.Letters - the literary cultureletters - the literary culture; "this book shows American letters at its best"
culture - the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group
2.letters - scholarly attainment; "he is a man of letters"


[ˈlɛtəz] npl (Literature) man of lettersuomo di lettere