[ in-kyoo-nab-yuh-luh, ing- ]
See synonyms for: incunabulum on

plural noun,singular in·cu·nab·u·lum [in-kyoo-nab-yuh-luhm, ing-]. /ˌɪn kyʊˈnæb yə ləm, ˌɪŋ-/.
  1. extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type.

  2. the earliest stages or first traces of anything.

Origin of incunabula

First recorded in 1815–25; from Latin: “straps holding a baby in a cradle, earliest home, birthplace,” probably equivalent to unattested *incūnā(re) “to place in a cradle” (in- in-2 + unattested -cūnāre, verbal derivative of cūnae “cradle”) + -bula, plural of -bulum suffix of instrument; def. 1 as translation of German Wiegendrucke

Other words from incunabula

  • in·cu·nab·u·lar, adjective
  • post·in·cu·nab·u·la, adjective

Words Nearby incunabula Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use incunabula in a sentence

  • The term incunabula is now applied to all books printed before the year 1500.

    The Book-Hunter at Home | P. B. M. Allan
  • It contained especially choice editions of the classics, and also many incunabula.

  • Beughem's incunabula Typographica, 1688, 12mo., is both jejune and grossly erroneous.

    Bibliomania; or Book-Madness | Thomas Frognall Dibdin
  • By the term 'early-printed books' the bookseller generally means fifteenth-century works, or incunabula as they are now called.

    The Book-Hunter at Home | P. B. M. Allan
  • One is the original editions of famous Elizabethan and early Stuart authors, the other, the more estimable incunabula.

    The Book-Hunter at Home | P. B. M. Allan

British Dictionary definitions for incunabula


/ (ˌɪnkjʊˈnæbjʊlə) /

pl nsingular -lum (-ləm)
  1. any book printed before 1501

  2. the infancy or earliest stages of something; beginnings

Origin of incunabula

C19: from Latin, originally: swaddling clothes, hence beginnings, from in- ² + cūnābula cradle

Derived forms of incunabula

  • incunabular, adjective

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