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literature definition


This page has 4 definitions of literature in English. Literature is a noun. Examples of how to use literature in a sentence are shown. Also define these 6 related words and terms: written, paper, treatise, academic, journal, and subject.





Alternative forms


From Middle English literature, from Old French littérature, from Latin literatura or litteratura, from littera (letter), from Etruscan, from Ancient Greek διφθέρᾱ (diphthérā, tablet). Displaced native Old English bōccræft.



literature (usually uncountable, plural literatures)

  1. The body of all written works.
  2. The collected creative writing of a nation, people, group, or culture.
  3. (usually preceded by the) All the papers, treatises, etc. published in academic journals on a particular subject.
    • 1988, Andrew Radford, chapter 7, in Transformational grammar: a first course, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, page 373:
      The obvious question to ask at this point is: ‘Why posit the existence of a set of Thematic Relations (THEME, AGENT, INSTRUMENT, etc.) distinct from constituent structure relations?ʼ The answer given in the relevant literature is that a variety of linguistic phenomena can be accounted for in a more principled way in terms of Thematic Functions than in terms of constituent structure relations.
    • 2018, James Lambert, “A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity”, in English World-Wide[1], page 3:
      In fact, information on when each of the terms first appeared in English, and if obsolete, how long they persisted, is entirely absent from the literature.
  4. Written fiction of a high standard.
    However, even “literary” science fiction rarely qualifies as literature, because it treats characters as sets of traits rather than as fully realized human beings with unique life stories. —Adam Cadre, 2008

Derived terms


Related terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Further reading

  • "literature" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 183.