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three R's

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plural noun
  1. reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, regarded as the fundamentals of education.
  2. the fundamentals, basic knowledge, or skills of any system or field: the three R's of good government.
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Origin of three R's

First recorded in 1820–30
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for three rs

three Rs

pl n
  1. the three Rs the three skills regarded as the fundamentals of education; reading, writing, and arithmetic
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Word Origin

from the humorous spelling reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic
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

Idioms and Phrases with three rs

three R's

The fundamentals of education, as in It's a terrible school; the children are not even taught the three R's. It is widely believed that Sir William Curtis, an alderman who became Lord Mayor of London, once presented a toast to the three R's—reading, riting, and rithmetic—thereby betraying his illiteracy. In any event, the term was picked up by others and so used from the early 1800s on.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.