- writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.
- the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.: the literature of England.
- the writings dealing with a particular subject: the literature of ornithology.
- the profession of a writer or author.
- literary work or production.
- any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills: literature describing company products.
- Archaic. polite learning; literary culture; appreciation of letters and books.
Origin of literature
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for literature
The religion shaped all facets of life: art, medicine, literature, and even dynastic politics.The Buddhist Business of Poaching Animals for Good Karma
December 28, 2014
Speaking of the literature you love, the Bloomsbury writers crop up in your collection repeatedly.Daphne Merkin on Lena Dunham, Book Criticism, and Self-Examination
December 26, 2014
Literature in the 14th century, Strohm points out, was an intimate, interactive affair.A Year In The Life of The Canterbury Tales’ Storied Beginnings
December 25, 2014
Fruitcake quickly acclimated to its American home, and even plays a supporting role in American literature.One Cake to Rule Them All: How Stollen Stole Our Hearts
December 24, 2014
Celebrities flocked to this glamorous and buzzy temple of literature and culture.The Bookstore That Bewitched Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Greta Garbo
December 16, 2014
It is his magnum opus in literature, and exhibits wide and laborious research.The Grand Old Man
Richard B. Cook
The like of that "looped and windowed raggedness" is hardly to be found in any other literature.The Man Shakespeare
We get "inside of" any classic work of literature only by this spirit of surrender.Understanding the Scriptures
It was like being present at the birth of a piece of literature!The Book of Old English Ballads
George Wharton Edwards
The Twentieth Century will have its share in literature and art.The Call of the Twentieth Century
David Starr Jordan
- written material such as poetry, novels, essays, etc, esp works of imagination characterized by excellence of style and expression and by themes of general or enduring interest
- the body of written work of a particular culture or peopleScandinavian literature
- written or printed matter of a particular type or on a particular subjectscientific literature; the literature of the violin
- printed material giving a particular type of informationsales literature
- the art or profession of a writer
- obsolete learning
Word Origin and History for literature
late 14c., from Latin literatura/litteratura "learning, a writing, grammar," originally "writing formed with letters," from litera/littera "letter" (see letter (n.1)). Originally "book learning" (it replaced Old English boccræft), the meaning "literary production or work" is first attested 1779 in Johnson's "Lives of the English Poets" (he didn't include this definition in his dictionary, however); that of "body of writings from a period or people" is first recorded 1812.
Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. [Ezra Pound, "ABC of Reading"]
Meaning "the whole of the writing on a particular subject" is from 1860; sense of "printed matter generally" is from 1895. The Latin word also is the source of Spanish literatura, Italian letteratura, German Literatur.