1. denomination (of a bank note)


Inflection of littera (Kotus type 12/kulkija, no gradation)
nominative littera litterat
genitive litteran litteroiden
partitive litteraa litteroita
illative litteraan litteroihin
singular plural
nominative littera litterat
accusative nom. littera litterat
gen. litteran
genitive litteran litteroiden
partitive litteraa litteroita
inessive litterassa litteroissa
elative litterasta litteroista
illative litteraan litteroihin
adessive litteralla litteroilla
ablative litteralta litteroilta
allative litteralle litteroille
essive litterana litteroina
translative litteraksi litteroiksi
instructive litteroin
abessive litteratta litteroitta
comitative litteroineen
Possessive forms of littera (type kulkija)
possessor singular plural
1st person litterani litteramme
2nd person litterasi litteranne
3rd person litteransa




littera (plural litteras)

  1. a letter of the alphabet
  2. letter (epistle)


Alternative formsEdit


Origin unknown. Two explanations have been proposed:

However, de Vaan points out that the past participle from lino is actually litus with a short i and, lacking any other traces of *leitos, says the scenario is "morphologicaly unconvincing".[1]
  • Alternatively, perhaps via Etruscan from (or related to, as if from a common source) Ancient Greek διφθέρᾱ (diphthérā, leather; writing material) which is claimed by Hesychius to be used to name tablets as well,[4] of unknown ultimate origin.


  • (Classical) IPA(key): /ˈlit.te.ra/, [ˈlʲɪt̪ːɛrä]
  • (Ecclesiastical) IPA(key): /ˈlit.te.ra/, [ˈlit̪ːɛrä]
  • (file)


littera f (genitive litterae); first declension

  1. a letter of the alphabet
  2. (metonymically) handwriting
    • 106 BCE – 43 BCE, Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum 7.2:
      Tam Alexidis manum amabam, quod tam prope accedebat ad similitudinem tuae litterae; non amabam, quod indicabat te non valere.
      While I was liking the handwriting of Alexis for it resembled so closely a likeness to your own handwriting, I wasn't liking it for it was indicating that you were not well.
  3. (usually in the plural) letter, epistle
    Litteras resignare.
    To unseal (or open) a letter.
  4. (usually in the plural) literature
    Abest historia litteris nostris.
    The story is missing from our literature.
    Si versus horum duorum poetarum neglegetis, magna parte litterarum carebitis.
    If you neglect the verses of these two poets, you will miss a great part of literature.
  5. (usually in the plural, by extension) letters, knowledge of literature, learning, scholarship
  6. (usually in the plural) books (often a collection of letters, epistles, accounts, records, etc.)
  7. (usually in the plural) record(s), account(s), document(s)
  8. (usually in the plural) an edict, ordinance.
    Praetoris litterae.
    A praetor's edict.
    Litteras revocavit.
    A letter of appointment. (a commission)

Usage notesEdit


First-declension noun.

Case Singular Plural
Nominative littera litterae
Genitive litterae litterārum
Dative litterae litterīs
Accusative litteram litterās
Ablative litterā litterīs
Vocative littera litterae

Derived termsEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 De Vaan, Michiel (2008), “littera”, in Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 7), Leiden, Boston: Brill, →ISBN, page 346
  2. ^ Sen, Ranjan (2015) Syllable and Segment in Latin[1], Oxford: Oxford University Press, page 47
  3. ^ Iustinianus Project (accessed 2021-06-14), “LEX (ACILIA?) REPETUNDARUM, Law on the right to recovery of property officially extorted (CIL I2, n. 583)”, in The Roman Law Library[2], Université Grenoble Alpes, archived from the original on 2021-06-14: “...libros leiterasve pop[licas]...”
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ernout, Alfred; Meillet, Antoine (2001), “littera”, in Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine: histoire des mots (in French), with additions and corrections of André J., 4th edition, Paris: Klincksieck, page 363
  5. ^ Walde, Alois; Hofmann, Johann Baptist (1938), “littera”, in Lateinisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (in German), volume I, 3rd edition, Heidelberg: Carl Winter, page 814
  6. ^ Sihler, Andrew L. (1995) New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 224

Further readingEdit

  • littera in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • littera in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • littera in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition with additions by D. P. Carpenterius, Adelungius and others, edited by Léopold Favre, 1883–1887)
  • littera in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré Latin-Français, Hachette
  • Carl Meißner; Henry William Auden (1894) Latin Phrase-Book[3], London: Macmillan and Co.
    • to live (all) one's life (honourably, in the country, as a man of learning): vitam, aetatem (omnem aetatem, omne aetatis tempus) agere (honeste, ruri, in litteris), degere, traducere
    • the study of belles-lettres; literary pursuits: litterarum studium or tractatio (not occupatio)
    • learned, scientific, literary men: homines litterarum studiosi
    • scholarship, culture, literature is at a low ebb: litterae iacent, neglectae iacent
    • to be engaged in the pursuit of letters: litteras colere
    • to be an enthusiastic devotee of letters: litteras amplecti
    • to be an enthusiastic devotee of letters: litteras adamasse (only in perf. and plup.)
    • to be engaged in literary pursuits: in studio litterarum versari
    • to be engaged in any branch of study: in aliquo litterarum genere versari
    • to be an ardent student of..: summo studio in litteris versari
    • to devote oneself entirely to literature: se totum litteris tradere, dedere
    • to be quite engrossed in literary studies: se totum in litteras or se litteris abdere
    • to apply oneself very closely to literary, scientific work: in litteris elaborare (De Sen. 8. 26)
    • to find recreation in study: in litteris acquiescere or conquiescere
    • to devote one's life to science, study: aetatem in litteris ducere, agere
    • to devote all one's leisure moments to study: omne (otiosum) tempus in litteris consumere
    • to employ all one's energies on literary work: omne studium in litteris collocare, ad litteras conferre
    • to feel an attraction for study: litterarum studio trahi
    • to feel an attraction for study: trahi, ferri ad litteras
    • to relax one's studies: litterarum studia remittere
    • to have a superficial knowledge, a smattering of literature, of the sciences: primis (ut dicitur) or primoribus labris gustare or attingere litteras
    • literature: litterae
    • written records; documents: litterae ac monumenta or simply monumenta
    • Roman literature: litterae latinae
    • shining lights in the literary world: clarissima litterarum lumina
    • to study Greek literature: graecis litteris studere
    • to be well (slightly) acquainted with Greek literature: multum (mediocriter) in graecis litteris versari
    • acquainted with the Latin language: latinis litteris or latine doctus
    • to possess literary knowledge: litterarum scientiam (only in sing.) habere
    • to be well-informed, erudite: multarum rerum cognitione imbutum esse (opp. litterarum or eruditionis expertem esse or [rerum] rudem esse)
    • to have received a liberal education: litteras scire
    • profound scientific education: litterae interiores et reconditae, artes reconditae
    • for a Roman he is decidedly well educated: sunt in illo, ut in homine Romano, multae litterae (De Sen. 4. 12)
    • to have received a superficial education: litteris leviter imbutum or tinctum esse
    • to be educated by some one: litteras discere ab aliquo
    • an elementary school: ludus (discendi or litterarum)
    • to receive the first elements of a liberal education: primis litterarum elementis imbui
    • to teach some one letters: erudire aliquem artibus, litteris (but erudire aliquem in iure civili, in re militari)
    • to write expositions of philosophy in Latin: philosophiam latinis litteris illustrare (Acad. 1. 1. 3)
    • to study historical records, read history: evolvere historias, litterarum (veterum annalium) monumenta
    • to hold by the letter (of the law): verba ac litteras or scriptum (legis) sequi (opp. sententia the spirit)
    • to lengthen the pronunciation of a syllable or letter: syllabam, litteram producere (opp. corripere) (Quintil. 9. 4. 89)
    • to pronounce the syllables distinctly: litteras exprimere (opp. obscurare)
    • to the letter; literally: ad litteram, litterate
    • the alphabet: litterarum ordo
    • the alphabet: litterae, elementa
    • to arrange in alphabetical order: ad litteram or litterarum ordine digerere
    • to put down in writing: litteris mandare or consignare aliquid (Acad. 2. 1. 2)
    • to treat in writing: litteris persequi (vid. sect. VIII. 2, note persequi...) aliquid
    • to write a letter to some one: epistulam (litteras) dare, scribere, mittere ad aliquem
    • correspondence: litterae missae et allatae
    • to correspond with some one: colloqui cum aliquo per litteras
    • to be in correspondence with..: litteras inter se dare et accipere
    • to take a letter somewhere: litteras perferre aliquo
    • to read a letter aloud (in public): litteras recitare (Att. 8. 9. 2)
    • a letter, the tenor of which is..: litterae hoc exemplo (Att. 9. 6. 3)
    • the terms, contents of the letter are as follows: litterae in hanc sententiam or his verbis scriptae sunt
    • to deliver a letter dated September 21st: litteras reddere datas a. d. Kal. X. Octob.
    • a most courteous letter: litterae officii or humanitatis plenae
  • littera in Ramminger, Johann (accessed 16 July 2016) Neulateinische Wortliste: Ein Wörterbuch des Lateinischen von Petrarca bis 1700[4], pre-publication website, 2005-2016