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Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris


Middle English librarie, from Anglo-Norman librarie, from Old French librairie, from Latin librarium (bookcase, chest for books), from librarius (concerning books), from liber (the inner bark of trees, paper, parchment, book), probably derived from a Proto-Indo-European base *leub(h) (to strip, to peel). Displaced native Middle English bochus, bochous (library, bookhouse) (from Old English bōchūs (library, bookhouse)). Romance cognates often mean “bookshop” instead French librairie, Italian libreria, and Portuguese livraria. This is a recent innovation (16th century in French), displacing earlier sense.


The nonstandard UK pronunciation /ˈlaɪbɹi/ shows haplology.


library (plural libraries)

  1. An institution which holds books and/or other forms of stored information for use by the public or qualified people. It is usual, but not a defining feature of a library, for it to be housed in rooms of a building, to lend items of its collection to members either with or without payment, and to provide various other services for its community of users.
  2. A collection of books or other forms of stored information.
    • 1896, Alfred Newton, A Dictionary of Birds, page 71:
      A small library of books has been written on the subject.
  3. An equivalent collection of analogous information in a non-printed form, e.g. record library.
  4. (computer science) A collection of software subprograms that provides functionality, to be incorporated into or used by a computer program.
  5. A collection of DNA material from a single organism or relative to a single disease.
  6. (card games) The deck or draw pile.

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