contained in or carried on by letters: an epistolary friendship.
of, relating to, or consisting of letters.

Origin of epistolary

First recorded in 1650–60, epistolary is from the Latin word epistolāris of, belonging to a letter. See epistle, -ar1
Related formsun·e·pis·to·lar·y, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for epistolary

Contemporary Examples of epistolary

  • Epistolary novels often function best as exercises in pacing.

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    This Week’s Hot Reads: Jan. 21, 2013

    Nicholas Mancusi

    January 22, 2013

  • Chatwin's tone throughout Under the Sun  recalls the Duchess of Devonshire's epistolary adieu, "In tearing haste—."

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    The Enigmatic Nomad

    Kirk Davis Swinehart

    February 26, 2011

  • It is as if the Zodiac Killer and the Unabomber were having an epistolary debate in the newspaper.

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    Headless Bodies in Endless War

    Bryan Curtis

    June 8, 2010

  • Dickinson scholar Judith Farr funneled her knowledge into an epistolary novel, I Never Came to You in White.

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    Emily Dickinson's Racy Side

    Donna Seaman

    March 1, 2010

Historical Examples of epistolary

British Dictionary definitions for epistolary


archaic epistolatory


relating to, denoting, conducted by, or contained in letters
(of a novel or other work) constructed in the form of a series of letters
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 epistolary

1650s, from French épistolaire, from Latin epistolaris, from epistola (see epistle).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper