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[stee-lee, steel for 1–3; steel, stee-lee for 4] /ˈsti li, stil for 1–3; stil, ˈsti li for 4/
noun, plural stelai
[stee-lahy] /ˈsti laɪ/ (Show IPA),
[stee-leez, steelz] /ˈsti liz, stilz/ (Show IPA)
an upright stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument, marker, or the like.
Architecture. a prepared surface on the face of a building, a rock, etc., bearing an inscription or the like.
(in ancient Rome) a burial stone.
Botany. the central cylinder or cylinders of vascular and related tissue in the stem, root, petiole, leaf, etc., of the higher plants.
Also, stela (for defs 1–3).
Origin of stele
1810-20; < Greek stḗlē, akin to histánai to make stand, Latin stāre to stand
Related forms
[stee-ler] /ˈsti lər/ (Show IPA),
Can be confused
steal, steel, stele. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for stelai
Historical Examples
  • The finest specimens, from the purely artistic point of view, are undoubtedly the two stelai found at Athens.

    Miscellanies Oscar Wilde
British Dictionary definitions for stelai


/ˈstiːlɪ; stiːl/
noun (pl) stelae (ˈstiːliː), steles (ˈstiːlɪz; stiːlz)
an upright stone slab or column decorated with figures or inscriptions, common in prehistoric times
a prepared vertical surface that has a commemorative inscription or design, esp one on the face of a building
the conducting tissue of the stems and roots of plants, which is in the form of a cylinder, principally containing xylem, phloem, and pericycle See also protostele, siphonostele
Also called (for senses 1, 2) stela (ˈstiːlə)
Derived Forms
stelar (ˈstiːlə) adjective
Word Origin
C19: from Greek stēlē; related to Greek histanai to stand, Latin stāre
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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Word Origin and History for stelai



"upright slab," usually inscribed, 1820, from Greek stele "standing block, slab," from PIE root *stel- "to put, stand" (see stall (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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stelai in Science
  (stēl, stē'lē)   
The central core of primary vascular tissues in the stem or root of a vascular plant, consisting of xylem and phloem together with pith.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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