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[hawrn-boo k] /ˈhɔrnˌbʊk/
a leaf or page containing the alphabet, religious materials, etc., covered with a sheet of transparent horn and fixed in a frame with a handle, formerly used in teaching children to read.
a primer or book of rudiments.
Origin of hornbook
First recorded in 1580-90; horn + book Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for hornbook
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His "Gull's hornbook" is written against coxcombs, and he says their "vinegar railings shall not quench his Alpine resolutions."

    History of English Humour, Vol. 1 (of 2) Alfred Guy Kingan L'Estrange
  • But I swear to thee I never read through the hornbook of the heavens.

    The Book of Khalid Ameen Rihani
  • The next of Dekker's tracts or pamphlets was the comparatively well-known "Gull's hornbook."

    The Age of Shakespeare Algernon Charles Swinburne
  • Decker, in "Gul's hornbook," speaks of "the unicorn whose horn is worth a city."

  • For hornbook and primmer for Jenkins' girle to learn to read, 6d.

  • And, Captain Borroughcliffe, as you appear to be forgetting the use of your own language, here is even a hornbook for you!

    The Pilot J. Fenimore Cooper
  • This like the criss-cross row in the hornbook was originally Christ's cross.

    Child Life in Colonial Days Alice Morse Earle
  • At the two upper corners of the page were crosses, hence to read the hornbook was often called "reading a criss-cross row."

    Child Life in Colonial Days Alice Morse Earle
  • The printed cardboard battledore was a successor of the hornbook.

    Child Life in Colonial Days Alice Morse Earle
British Dictionary definitions for hornbook


a page bearing a religious text or the alphabet, held in a frame with a thin window of flattened cattle horn over it
any elementary primer
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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