View synonyms for literature


[ lit-er-uh-cher, -choor, li-truh- ]


  1. 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.
  2. the entire body of writings of a specific language, period, people, etc.:

    the literature of England.

  3. the writings dealing with a particular subject:

    the literature of ornithology.

  4. the profession of a writer or author.
  5. literary work or production.
  6. any kind of printed material, as circulars, leaflets, or handbills:

    literature describing company products.

  7. Archaic. polite learning; literary culture; appreciation of letters and books.


/ ˈlɪtərɪtʃə; ˈlɪtrɪ- /


  1. 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
  2. the body of written work of a particular culture or people

    Scandinavian literature

  3. written or printed matter of a particular type or on a particular subject

    scientific literature

    the literature of the violin

  4. printed material giving a particular type of information

    sales literature

  5. the art or profession of a writer
  6. obsolete.

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Other Words From

  • pre·liter·a·ture noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of literature1

First recorded in 1375–1425; late Middle English litterature, from Latin litterātūra “grammar;” literate, -ure

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Word History and Origins

Origin of literature1

C14: from Latin litterātūra writing; see letter

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Synonym Study

Literature, belles-lettres, letters refer to artistic writings worthy of being remembered. In the broadest sense, literature includes any type of writings on any subject: the literature of medicine; usually, however, it means the body of artistic writings of a country or period that are characterized by beauty of expression and form and by universality of intellectual and emotional appeal: English literature of the 16th century. Belles-lettres is a more specific term for writings of a light, elegant, or excessively refined character: His talent is not for scholarship but for belles-lettres. Letters (rare today outside of certain fixed phrases) refers to literature as a domain of study or creation: a man of letters.

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Example Sentences

If you want to understand the flamboyant family of objects that make up our solar system—from puny, sputtering comets to tremendous, ringed planets—you could start by immersing yourself in the technical terms that fill the scientific literature.

Poway Unified anticipates bringing forward two new courses – ethnic studies and ethnic literature – to the school board for review, said Christine Paik, a spokeswoman for the district.

The book she completed after that trip, Coming of Age in Samoa, published in 1928, would be hailed as a classic in the literature on sexuality and adolescence.

He also told Chemistry World he envisages the robots eventually being able to analyze the scientific literature to better guide their experiments.

Research also suggests that reading literature may help increase empathy and understanding of others’ experiences, potentially spurring better real-world behavior.

From Quartz

The research literature, too, asks these questions, and not without reason.

She wanted to know what happened over five years, or even 10, but the scientific literature had little to offer.

The religion shaped all facets of life: art, medicine, literature, and even dynastic politics.

Speaking of the literature you love, the Bloomsbury writers crop up in your collection repeatedly.

Literature in the 14th century, Strohm points out, was an intimate, interactive affair.

All along the highways and by-paths of our literature we encounter much that pertains to this "queen of plants."

There cannot be many persons in the world who keep up with the whole range of musical literature as he does.

In early English literature there was at one time a tendency to ascribe to Solomon various proverbs not in the Bible.

He was deeply versed in Saxon literature and published a work on the antiquity of the English church.

Such unromantic literature as Acts of Parliament had not, it may be supposed, up to this, formed part of my mental pabulum.


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More About Literature

What is literature?

Literature is writing that uses artistic expression and form and is considered to have merit or be important.

As an artistic term, literature refers to written works, such as novels, short stories, biographies, memories, essays, and poetry. However, songs, movies, TV shows, video games, and paintings are typically not considered to be literature because the final output is not text.

At the same time, literature is usually thought to only include works of art. Informative works like newspapers, scientific journals, religious texts, press releases, and spreadsheets are generally not considered to be literature.

Yet in scientific study, especially anthropology or history, the word literature is used more broadly to describe everything that a specific society or group has ever written. For example, a researcher may be studying “Persian literature,” which would include even mundane, non-artistic pieces of writing that was created by a citizen of the Persian empire, such as lists of food supplies.

Why is literature important?

The first records of the word literature come from around 1375. It ultimately comes from the Latin litterātūra, meaning “grammar” or “writing.”

What writings are considered literature is often debated. Average readers and literary experts often disagree on what counts as literature. Literary experts also disagree among themselves what is and isn’t literature. Usually, literature is defined as being “of interest” or having importance, which is obviously a subjective quality. Who gets to decide if a piece of writing is important? In the past, the answer was “people who can read.” In your own life, the literature you have studied has most likely been selected by an English teacher or a literature department at a college.

In everyday life, the word literature is most likely to be used when speaking academically or scholastically. Libraries and stores that sell books are less likely to use this broad, unhelpful term and are more likely to categorize written works using more specific words, like poetry, romance, or young adult fiction.

Did you know … ?

The oldest author whose name we know was Enheduanna, a Sumerian princess and high priestess who wrote poetry dedicated to the gods over 4,000 years ago. Her literature is the oldest written work we know of.

What are real-life examples of literature?

People have many different opinions on what kinds of literature they like to read.


What other words are related to literature?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following is NOT considered to be literature?

A. a nature poem
B. a science fiction novel
C. a murder mystery television show
D. a president’s autobiography

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