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epistle

[ih-pis-uh l]
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noun
  1. a letter, especially a formal or didactic one; written communication.
  2. (usually initial capital letter) one of the apostolic letters in the New Testament.
  3. (often initial capital letter) an extract, usually from one of the Epistles of the New Testament, forming part of the Eucharistic service in certain churches.
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Origin of epistle

before 900; Middle English; Old English epistol < Latin epistula, epistola < Greek epistolḗ message, letter, equivalent to epi- epi- + stol- (variant stem of stéllein to send) + noun suffix
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for epistle

epistle

noun
  1. a letter, esp one that is long, formal, or didactic
  2. a literary work in letter form, esp a dedicatory verse letter of a type originated by Horace
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Word Origin

Old English epistol, via Latin from Greek epistolē, from epistellein to send to, from stellein to prepare, send

Epistle

noun
  1. New Testament any of the apostolic letters of Saints Paul, Peter, James, Jude, or John
  2. a reading from one of the Epistles, forming part of the Eucharistic service in many Christian Churches
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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

Word Origin and History for epistle

n.

Old English epistol, from Old French epistle, epistre (Modern French épitre), from Latin epistola "letter," from Greek epistole "message, letter, command, commission," whether verbal or in writing, from epistellein "send to," from epi "to" (see epi-) + stellein in its secondary sense of "to dispatch, send" from PIE *stel-yo-, suffixed form of root *stel- "to put, stand," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place (see stall (n.1)).

Also acquired in Old English directly from Latin as pistol. Specific sense of "letter from an apostle forming part of canonical scripture" is c.1200.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper