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Word of the Day
Saturday, January 06, 2018

Definitions for boustrophedon

  1. an ancient method of writing in which the lines run alternately from right to left and from left to right.

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Citations for boustrophedon
Many of the old Greek inscriptions were written alternately from right to left and from left to right, turning the direction as one turns a plow in the field, and this style was called "boustrophedon" (turning like oxen). Carl Vogt, "Writing Physiologically Considered," The Popular Science Monthly, September 1881
And although the zigzag boustrophedon style of writing had long since been replaced with lines running uniformly left to right, a brief, unrelated Roman experiment of SEPARATING∙WORDS∙WITH∙DOTS had by the end of the second century been abandoned in favor of the Greeks' monotonous, unspaced scriptio continua. Keith Houston, Shady Characters, 2013
Origin of boustrophedon
Only students of ancient scripts, especially (but not exclusively) of ancient Greek, will know the meaning and etymology of boustrophedon “like the ox turns (in plowing).” The major components of the Greek adverb boustrophēdón are the nouns boûs (stem, bou-) “bull, cow, ox,” and strophḗ “a turn, twist.” In the earliest Greek writing (mid-8th century b.c.), the first line was written from right to left (“retrograde,” as always in Phoenician and Hebrew); the second line from left to right; the third line retrograde, etc. Boustrophedonic writing was obsolete in Athens and most other parts of Greece by the mid-5th century b.c. Boustrophedon entered English in the 18th century.