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incunabula

[in-kyoo-nab-yuh-luh, ing-]
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plural noun, singular in·cu·nab·u·lum [in-kyoo-nab-yuh-luh m, ing-] /ˌɪn kyʊˈnæb yə ləm, ˌɪŋ-/.
  1. extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type.
  2. the earliest stages or first traces of anything.
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Origin of incunabula

1815–25; < Latin: straps holding a baby in a cradle, earliest home, birthplace, probably equivalent to *incūnā(re) to place in a cradle (in- in-2 + *-cūnāre, verbal derivative of cūnae cradle) + -bula, plural of -bulum suffix of instrument; def. 1 as translation of German Wiegendrucke
Related formsin·cu·nab·u·lar, adjectivepost·in·cu·nab·u·la, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for incunabulum

incunabula

pl n singular -lum (-ləm)
  1. any book printed before 1501
  2. the infancy or earliest stages of something; beginnings
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Derived Formsincunabular, adjective

Word Origin

C19: from Latin, originally: swaddling clothes, hence beginnings, from in- ² + cūnābula cradle
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 incunabulum

n.

1861, singular of incunabula; taken up (originally in German) as a word for any book printed late 15c., in the "infancy" of the printer's art.

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incunabula

n.

"swaddling clothes," also, figuratively, "childhood, beginnings;" 1824, from Latin incunabula (neuter plural), ultimately from cunae "cradle," from PIE *koi-na-, from root *kei- "to lie; bed, couch."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper