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[ab-uh-kuh s, uh-bak-uh s] /ˈæb ə kəs, əˈbæk əs/
noun, plural abacuses, abaci
[ab-uh-sahy, -kahy, uh-bak-ahy] /ˈæb əˌsaɪ, -ˌkaɪ, əˈbæk aɪ/ (Show IPA)
a device for making arithmetic calculations, consisting of a frame set with rods on which balls or beads are moved.
Architecture. a slab forming the top of the capital of a column.
Origin of abacus
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin: board, counting board, re-formed < Greek ábax Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for abacus
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Whenever the dimensions of the column were sufficiently great the stone beams which met upon the die or abacus had oblique joints.

  • This, as pictured in the text, is the common Gerbert abacus.

    The Hindu-Arabic Numerals David Eugene Smith
  • Now look under the abacus of this capital; you will find the stone hollowed out wonderfully; and also in this arch-mould.

    A Laodicean Thomas Hardy
  • The abacus has a width equivalent to the thickness of the bottom of a column.

  • The more slender the shaft, the greater, proportionally, may be the projection of the abacus.

  • The abacus is the crowning member of the capital, as the capital is of the column.

    History of Ancient Art Franz von Reber
  • We worked, not with slate and pencil, but with a rectangular wooden frame set with beads, resembling an abacus.

    A Japanese Boy Shigemi Shiukichi
  • Though the month was February below it was May in the abacus of the column.

    Two on a Tower Thomas Hardy
British Dictionary definitions for abacus


noun (pl) -ci (-ˌsaɪ), -cuses
a counting device that consists of a frame holding rods on which a specific number of beads are free to move. Each rod designates a given denomination, such as units, tens, hundreds, etc, in the decimal system, and each bead represents a digit or a specific number of digits
(architect) the flat upper part of the capital of a column
Word Origin
C16: from Latin, from Greek abax board covered with sand for tracing calculations, from Hebrew ābhāq dust
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for abacus

late 14c., "sand table for drawing, calculating, etc.," from Latin abacus, from Greek abax (genitive abakos) "counting table," from Hebrew abaq "dust," from root a-b-q "to fly off." Originally a drawing board covered with dust or sand that could be written on to do mathematical equations. Specific reference to a counting frame is 17c. or later.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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