Definition of palimpsest in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpalɪm(p)sɛst/


1A manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.
Example sentences
  • By going back to journal entries in which I initially recorded some of the events that surfaced in the ‘written’ writing, I was able to locate an initial palimpsest, or precipitate, of the writing.
  • Some people used old books as the basis of their scrapbook, leading to a palimpsest of original text and jumbled scraps, with columns overlapping columns and sentences running together.
  • In 1906 the Danish philologist Johan Ludvig Heiberg discovered the palimpsest in a monastery in Istanbul and correctly identified the prayer-enshrouded text as the lost Method of Archimedes.
1.1Something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form: Sutton Place is a palimpsest of the taste of successive owners
More example sentences
  • In subterranean passages, where sedimentation rates are extremely low, endogenous processes are the primary sediment source, and archaeologists must identify artifact palimpsests on ancient surfaces.
  • It also reflects the widespread discovery that nothing is so boring and oppressive as the monothematic Modernist masterplan, and that most real landscapes are palimpsests recording layers of history and changes of mind.
  • Every city is an urban palimpsest, a used parchment covered with the fragmentary scrawls of its own past.



Example sentences
  • The palimpsestic jumble created by the network of pedestrian acts in the city, ultimately leaves the detective suspended at the surface, as if the city space were indeed flat.
  • Her statement suggests that the wall and her pictures weave a kind of palimpsestic image-memory around her, informing her when she is not looking at them.
  • American critics like Gates have used the metaphor of a ‘silent second text’ to describe the intertextual, palimpsestic dialogue between historically significant works of African American fiction.


Mid 17th century: via Latin from Greek palimpsēstos, from palin 'again' + psēstos 'rubbed smooth'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pal¦imp|sest

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