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[lit-er-uh-cher, -choo r, li-truh-] /ˈlɪt ər ə tʃər, -ˌtʃʊər, ˈlɪ trə-/

writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.
the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.:
the literature of England.
the writings dealing with a particular subject:
the literature of ornithology.
the profession of a writer or author.
work or production.
any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills:
literature describing company products.
Archaic. polite learning; culture; appreciation of letters and books.
/ˈlɪtərɪtʃə; ˈlɪtrɪ-/
written material such as poetry, novels, essays, etc, esp works of imagination characterized by excellence of style and expression and by themes of general or enduring interest
the body of written work of a particular culture or people: Scandinavian literature
written or printed matter of a particular type or on a particular subject: scientific literature, the literature of the violin
printed material giving a particular type of information: sales literature
the art or profession of a writer
(obsolete) learning

late 14c., from Latin literatura/litteratura “learning, a writing, grammar,” originally “writing formed with letters,” from litera/littera “letter” (see letter (n.1)). Originally “book learning” (it replaced Old English boccræft), the meaning “literary production or work” is first attested 1779 in Johnson’s “Lives of the English Poets” (he didn’t include this definition in his dictionary, however); that of “body of writings from a period or people” is first recorded 1812.

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. [Ezra Pound, “ABC of Reading”]

Meaning “the whole of the writing on a particular subject” is from 1860; sense of “printed matter generally” is from 1895. The Latin word also is the source of Spanish literatura, Italian letteratura, German Literatur.


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