- 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 literatures
Over here is Alexander, who wants to embrace all literatures, all peoples.Adventures with an Extreme Polyglot: Excerpt from 'Babel No More'
January 10, 2012
She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, majored in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University, and is fluent in Russian.The Prep School Facebook Scandal
November 22, 2010
She grew up in Tulsa, Okla., majored in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University, and is fluent in Russian.Inside Chelsea's Wedding Party
July 29, 2010
The religions and literatures of the world will be open books, which he who wills may read.Phaedrus
The literatures of Europe, America, or Asia are an open book for him.Life Immovable
They have a share in the development of all Romance languages and literatures.Jewish Literature and Other Essays
No, we must expect a continual divergence in our literatures.The Complete Essays of C. D. Warner
Charles Dudley Warner
New countries, languages, and literatures were brought into its view.Vie de Bohme
- 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 literatures
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.