Definition of letter in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlɛtə/


1A character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet: a capital letter
More example sentences
  • Three of its vowels are each represented by a letter of the alphabet.
  • If three letters together represent a single sound, they constitute a trigraph, such as tch in catch and sch in schmaltz.
  • A group of eight bits makes up a byte, which can represent many types of information, such as a letter of the alphabet or decimal character.
alphabetical character, character, sign, symbol, mark, type, figure, device, rune
technical grapheme
1.1 (letters) British informal The initials of a degree or other qualification: your personality matters far more than letters after your name
More example sentences
  • Advisers who have gained this qualification will have the letters AFPC after their names.
  • Ballina woman Dorothy Duffy already has eleven letters of qualification after her name.
  • One large test and a somewhat rigorous industry experience qualification and I can now put some letters after my name.
learning, scholarship, erudition, education, knowledge, book learning, academic training;
intellect, intelligence, enlightenment, illumination, wisdom, sagacity, culture, cultivation;
literature, books, humanities, belles-lettres
1.2US A school or college initial as a mark of proficiency, especially in sport: [as modifier]: a letter jacket
More example sentences
  • They fawned over him just because he had a good smile, a fancy car, and a varsity letter jacket.
  • Some appear to have just discovered grunge; others wear navy-colored jackets with red sports letters.
  • Throughout school, he also pursued sports, earning a varsity letter in wrestling while at Harvard.
2A written, typed, or printed communication, sent in an envelope by post or messenger: he sent a letter to Mrs Falconer
More example sentences
  • I must have written him a letter, because he sent me a postcard in reply.
  • We'll stick to the big social events and if people want other things in these pages they can write letters and send us pictures.
  • He also sent out the letter before he wrote it (according to the date).
written message, message, written communication, communication, note, line, missive, epistle, dispatch, report, bulletin;
correspondence, news, information, intelligence, word;
post, mail
2.1 (letters) A legal or formal document.
Example sentences
  • As well, he was unable to open an Estate bank account until the letters of probate were issued, which occurred on November 14, 1997.
3 (the letter) The precise terms of a statement or requirement; the strict verbal interpretation: the officer in the incident got in trouble for following the letter of the law we must keep the spirit of the law as well as the letter
More example sentences
  • Museum directors and trustees are required to honor the letter and spirit of benefactors' wishes.
  • It is up to Bulgarians to honour the letter and spirit of the country's constitution, or to amend that very constitution if a need to do so is felt.
4 (letters) Literature: the world of letters
More example sentences
  • Canadian art, literature, and letters have traditionally mythologized the North.
4.1 archaic Scholarly knowledge; erudition.
5 [mass noun] Printing A style of typeface.


1 [with object] Inscribe letters or writing on: her name was lettered in gold
More example sentences
  • Horse racing is big in New Zealand, and, before the advent of electronic displays, the bookmakers lettered horses' names on white wooden boards in heavy black sans-serif characters.
  • Yet the names of donors are lettered on the walls, museum-style.
  • The name has been professionally lettered on in bright letters.
1.1Classify with letters: he numbered and lettered the paragraphs
More example sentences
  • I now have two lists, one for crates, lettered A-L and one for boxes, numbered 1-14.
2 [no object] US informal Be given a school or college initial as a mark of proficiency in sport: in high school she lettered in soccer, basketball and softball
More example sentences
  • In high school, she lettered in five sports - soccer, track, basketball, softball, and, with the boys, football.
  • I finished out the year, actually lettering in the sport.
  • I did, however, join the golf team for one year in high school just so I could say I had lettered in a team sport.


to the letter

With adherence to every detail: the method was followed to the letter
More example sentences
  • It is a case where a strict adherence to the letter would involve an error in substance.
  • He says his intention is to highlight the absurdities and deceptions in consumer culture by following its rules to the letter.
  • The council stands by its decision, insisting that the consultation process has been followed to the letter.
strictly, precisely, exactly, accurately, closely, faithfully, religiously, punctiliously, literally, with a literal interpretation, with strict attention to detail, word for word, letter for letter, verbatim, in every detail, by the book


Middle English: from Old French lettre, from Latin litera, littera 'letter of the alphabet', (plural) 'epistle, literature, culture'.

  • English adopted letter from Old French in the 13th century. Its ultimate source is Latin lit(t)era, from which literal (Late Middle English), literature (Late Middle English), and alliteration (early 17th century) also derive—the Latin word meant ‘written communication or message’ as well as ‘letter of the alphabet’, and both senses came over into English. The phrase to the letter ‘to the last detail’ has a parallel in French au pied de la lettre, which people of a literary bent have also used in English. See also alphabet

Words that rhyme with letter

abetter, begetter, better, bettor, biretta, bruschetta, carburettor (US carburetor), debtor, feta, fetter, forgetter, getter, go-getter, Greta, Henrietta, Loretta, mantelletta, operetta, petter, Quetta, setter, sinfonietta, sweater, upsetter, Valletta, vendetta, whetter

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: let¦ter

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