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dead language (plural dead languages)

  1. A language which no longer has any native speakers, particularly (archaic) Latin and Ancient Greek.
    • 1799, Edward Dubois, A Piece of Family Biography, volume II, page 20:
      Supper being over, the lawyer took his leave, and the doctor began to ſound the learned clerk reſpecting his proficiency in the dead languages. "As to dead languages," replied the ſchoolmafter, "I was once a vaſt pretty ſcholar indeed, but want of exercise has made me main ſlack—I can't get over my ground as I uſed to do. Then as to the t'other dead fellow, I could never greek it at all, that's flat. And, Lord bleſs you! my Latin is of no more uſe to me here than—than—" Here he ſtuck for want of a ſimile; when Mr. Le Dupe helped him out by ſaying, "that it is to a young man at college, where it is conſidered a pedantic inſult, and an unpardonable bore, to utter a Latin ſentence."

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