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LETTER

LETTER1 An alphabetic symbol such as A or a, B or b. In WRITING based on the classical Roman ALPHABET, the separation of letters into majuscules (CAPITAL letters) and minuscules (small letters), the many variant alphabets (such as for English and Spanish), the typefaces available to them, and the distinctive joined letters of cursive handwriting have produced a wide range of letter forms.

Naming letters

In the GREEK alphabet, each letter has a name that is not directly related to its sound value (alpha, beta, gamma, etc.), but this practice is not common in ROMAN-derived ALPHABETS. The ways in which letters are referred to in English (ay, bee, cee, etc.) echo those of FRENCH, except that French double-v is English double-u, and the name of y may descend from the rounded OLD ENGLISH pronunciation of that VOWEL. Except for h, w, the names (ay, bee, cee, etc.) have a recognizable relationship with the sounds they commonly represent. The vowel letters are named by the long values in mate, meet, might, moat, mute, not the short values as in pat, pet, pit, pot, putt/put. Nine CONSONANTS in BrE and ten in AmE are named with a vowel after the sound value: with following ee in the case of b, c, d, g, p, t, v (and AmE z) and ay in the case of j, k. Six others are named with a preceding short e: f, l, m, n, s, x. The remainder (h, q, r, w, y, and BrE zed) have individual names.

Letters as symbols

When letters are used as symbols they may operate alone, in sets, or in combination with words: (1) Alone: capitals A, B, C, etc., to mark an educational or other grade, X to indicate a mystery; small letters such as a, x, and y as used in mathematical expressions. (2) In sets: zzz in cartoons and elsewhere, to represent sleep; the thousands of letter-based abbreviations, such as BBC, NATO, e.g., i.e., UN/U.N. (3) In combination with a word, as an ABBREVIATION: BrE L-plate, where L means Learner (such plates being attached to the front and rear of motor vehicles); AmE T-bill, where T means Treasury (a reference to high-denomination promissory notes). (4) Combined with one or more words as part of a series: B-movie in the motion-picture industry; C minor in music. (5) Representing a shape: X in Charing X for the junction known as Charing Cross in London; U-turn a turn made through 180°. Some letters operate within established conventions, such as A, B, C and X, Y, Z, as the opening and closing letters of the Roman alphabet, often used to refer to sets of three things taken in order. A to Z means from the beginning to the end of something, such as a subject to be learned.

The uses of letter symbols are complex and varied, and include: economy of expression in generalizing and in labelling, mnemonic aid, the replacement and augmentation of numbers, and special effects. For example: through such formulas as How do we get from Point A to Point B? and Flight X is now boarding at Gate Y; fonybas, a mnemonic list of coordinating conjunctions (for, or, nor, yet, but, as, so), and St Wapniacl, once used to help US children memorize the departments of government in the order in which they were created (State, Treasury, War, Attorney General, Post Office, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor); alliterative sets of three (the three Bs for Bach, Beethoven, Brahms), the words sometimes adapted to fit the idea and the rhythm (the three Rs for reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic); A, B, C for 1, 2, 3, B–51, F–18 (types of US aircraft) or 4A (the top stream or track of the fourth year in a school).

Special effects

Although all letters are available for use as special symbols, K and X have been particularly popular for such purposes. The uses of K include: an abbreviation meaning one thousand (from kilo), 10K being 10,000 of a unit of currency; a token of alienness, as in Amerika, for the US conceived as dominated by Communists or Nazis; an eye-catching spelling for words in q and c, as with a company called Kwik-Fit and cartoon characters called the Krazy Kids. The uses of X include: a token for something unknown: Mr X, Substance X, X-ray; to represent ex-, as in MX for missile experimental, in Xtra strong and X-ellent (compare D-grading and D-lightful); for Christ in Xmas, representing the Greek letter khi; to signify censorship: an X-rated movie, not to be shown to minors; as the signature of an illiterate person; to mark a place on a map or where a signature should go on a paper (commonly called a cross and not necessarily identified as a letter); to represent a kiss, often in a series written in a letter.

Letters in word use and word-formation

Letter symbols are often attributive (an A student, Type B behaviour), and occur as abbreviations in compounds (A-bomb, N-test for atomic bomb, nuclear test). They may serve to emphasize significant words, whose full form may be taboo (the F-word for fuck), undesirable (the big C for cancer), or highly significant (the big O for the Olympics). Technical letter symbols in electrical engineering include GeV for gigaelectron volt and TeV for teravolt. Such symbols can include an AMPERSAND: R & D for research and development. However, it may not always be easy to distinguish letter symbols from initialisms: in Britain, ABC may refer to the socio-economic classes A, B, C taken together; in the 1983 general election in Canada, they meant Anybody but Clark; in Australia, they stand for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; in Los Angeles, they have been used to mean American-born Chinese; in military terms, they mean atomic, biological, chemical.

See the entries for individual letters, A–Z, and ACRONYM, ACUTE ACCENT, AITCH, ASH, DIACRITIC, DIGRAPH, ENG, ESH, ETH, GRAVE ACCENT, INITIAL, INITIALISM, LETTER WORD, LITERAL, LONG S, ORTHOGRAPHY, SILENT LETTER, SPELLING, THORN, TRANSLITERATION, YOGH.

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"LETTER." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"LETTER." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved June 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/letter

letters

letters, in literature, written messages, ranging from those addressed to the public and those sent from lover to lover, to business letters and thank-you notes. The common quality they share is a lively style, echoing the personality of the sender yet aimed at the mind and heart of the receiver. Their intimacy gives them an immediacy that touches general readers as well. Long, eloquent letters, or epistles, were the favored means of communication in the ancient world. Those of Cicero and Horace, ranging in subject from political philosophy to literary criticism and social satire, served as models for the formal statement or manifesto. Although the epistles of Saint Paul and Saint Jerome are concerned with the Christian life of the spirit, they are patterned upon classical models. The writings of Cicero and Horace served as models once again for a revival of the epistle in the 18th cent., when John Dryden and Alexander Pope composed verse epistles and Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. Two famous sets of letters vividly portray life in the Middle Ages. The passionate correspondence of Peter Abelard and his mistress, Héloise, poignantly suggests the cruelty of the supposedly civilized church in 12th-century France; the Paston Letters reveal in detail the daily life of an English family in the 15th cent. The 18th cent. was a golden age of letters. Madame de Sévigné, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and Lord Chesterfield all entered into long, highly polished, and extremely readable correspondences with their respective children. Letter writing was so popular in England at this time that Samuel Richardson capitalized on the vogue by writing the first epistolary novels, Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1747–48). Each was meant to serve as a guide for writing different kinds of letters as well as for designating correct female behavior under trying circumstances. Among British writers of the 19th cent., the best correspondents included John Keats, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, and R. L. Stevenson. George Bernard Shaw wrote love letters to the actress Ellen Terry for three years before they met. Their eventual encounter was not a success, but the correspondence continued for 23 years. The particular ability of letters to convey with immediacy not only the emotions and tragedies of a past time but also the substance of daily life is well illustrated in The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War (1972, ed. by Robert Myers), a collection of letters written by a Georgia family between 1854 and 1868. Important to students of American literature are the letters of the editor Maxwell Perkins to such writers as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Thomas Wolfe. Also illuminating, partly because of their very existence, are the letters of Groucho Marx to T. S. Eliot.

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"letters." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"letters." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/letters

letter

let·ter / ˈletər/ • n. 1. a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet: a capital letter. ∎  a school or college initial as a mark of proficiency, esp. in sports: I earned a varsity letter in tennis [as adj.] a letter jacket. 2. a written, typed, or printed communication, esp. one sent in an envelope by mail or messenger: he sent a letter to Mrs. Falconer. ∎  (letters) a legal or formal document of this kind. 3. the precise terms of a statement or requirement; the strict verbal interpretation: we must be seen to keep the spirit of the law as well as the letter. 4. (letters) literature: the world of letters. ∎ archaic scholarly knowledge; erudition. 5. Printing a style of typeface. • v. 1. [tr.] inscribe letters or writing on: her name was lettered in gold. ∎  classify with letters: he numbered and lettered the paragraphs. 2. [intr.] inf. be given a school or college initial as a mark of proficiency in sports: juniors who lettered in soccer, basketball or softball. PHRASES: to the letter with adherence to every detail: the method was followed to the letter.

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"letter." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"letter." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/letter-1

"letter." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved June 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/letter-1

letter

letter a dead letter a law or practice no longer observed. Originally with reference to biblical passages in which St Paul compares the life-giving spirit of the New Testament with what he sees as the dead ‘letter’ of the Mosaic Law. Also, until the late 19th century, the Dead-letter Office was the name given to the organization dealing with unclaimed and misdirected mail.
letter of marque a licence to fit out an armed vessel and use it in the capture of enemy merchant shipping and to commit acts which would otherwise have constituted piracy.
letters patent an open document issued by a monarch or government conferring a patent or other right.

See also red-letter day, scarlet letter.

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"letter." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"letter." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved June 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/letter

LETTER

LETTER2. A piece of WRITING addressed and usually sent to someone. Personal and official letters date from remote antiquity, as for example between Hittite and Egyptian rulers in the late second millennium BC. Until the invention of the telegraph, telephone, and E-MAIL, letters were the commonest means through which people living at a distance from each other could keep in touch, and the 19c growth of national and international postal systems created a boom in letter-writing. Writing and reading letters became a major aspect of literacy after Rowland Hill introduced the penny post in Britain in 1840.

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"LETTER." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"LETTER." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/letter-0

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letter

letter alphabetic character; epistle; pl. literature, learning. XIII. — (O)F. lettre :- L. littera letter of the alphabet, pl. epistle, written document, literature, culture.
So lettered learned, educated. XIV.

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"letter." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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letter

letter (in formal language theory) See word.

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"letter." A Dictionary of Computing. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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letter

letter: see alphabet.

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"letter." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"letter." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/letter

letter

letterabetter, begetter, better, bettor, biretta, bruschetta, carburettor (US carburetor), debtor, feta, fetter, forgetter, getter, go-getter, Greta, Henrietta, letter, Loretta, mantelletta, operetta, petter, Quetta, setter, sinfonietta, sweater, upsetter, Valletta, vendetta, whetter •bisector, collector, connector, convector, corrector, defector, deflector, detector, director, ejector, elector, erector, hector, injector, inspector, nectar, objector, perfecter, projector, prospector, protector, rector, reflector, rejector, respecter, sector, selector, Spector, spectre (US specter), vector •belter, delta, helter-skelter, melter, pelta, Shelta, shelter, swelter, welter •pre-emptor, tempter •assenter, cementer, centre (US center), concentre (US concenter), dissenter, enter, eventer, fermenter (US fermentor), fomenter, frequenter, inventor, lamenter, magenta, placenta, polenta, precentor, presenter, preventer, renter, repenter, tenter, tormentor •inceptor, preceptor, receptor, sceptre (US scepter) •arrester, Avesta, Chester, contester, ester, Esther, fester, fiesta, Hester, investor, jester, Leicester, Lester, molester, Nestor, pester, polyester, protester, quester, semester, sequester, siesta, sou'wester, suggester, tester, trimester, vesta, zester •Webster • dexter • Leinster •Dorchester • Poindexter • newsletter •genuflector • implementer •experimenter • trendsetter •epicentre (US epicenter) •typesetter • jobcentre • photosetter •Cirencester • interceptor • Sylvester

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