three R's

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.

Origin of three R's

First recorded in 1820–30

Words Nearby three R's Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

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

Origin of three Rs

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with three R's

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.

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