Dead letter

Dead letter
Letter Let"ter, n. [OE. lettre, F. lettre, OF. letre, fr. L. littera, litera, a letter; pl., an epistle, a writing, literature, fr. linere, litum, to besmear, to spread or rub over; because one of the earliest modes of writing was by graving the characters upon tablets smeared over or covered with wax. --Pliny, xiii. 11. See {Liniment}, and cf. {Literal}.] 1. A mark or character used as the representative of a sound, or of an articulation of the human organs of speech; a first element of written language. [1913 Webster]

And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew. --Luke xxiii. 38. [1913 Webster]

2. A written or printed communication; a message expressed in intelligible characters on something adapted to conveyance, as paper, parchment, etc.; an epistle. [1913 Webster]

The style of letters ought to be free, easy, and natural. --Walsh. [1913 Webster]

3. A writing; an inscription. [Obs.] [1913 Webster]

None could expound what this letter meant. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster]

4. Verbal expression; literal statement or meaning; exact signification or requirement. [1913 Webster]

We must observe the letter of the law, without doing violence to the reason of the law and the intention of the lawgiver. --Jer. Taylor. [1913 Webster]

I broke the letter of it to keep the sense. --Tennyson. [1913 Webster]

5. (Print.) A single type; type, collectively; a style of type. [1913 Webster]

Under these buildings . . . was the king's printing house, and that famous letter so much esteemed. --Evelyn. [1913 Webster]

6. pl. Learning; erudition; as, a man of letters. [1913 Webster]

7. pl. A letter; an epistle. [Obs.] --Chaucer. [1913 Webster]

8. (Teleg.) A telegram longer than an ordinary message sent at rates lower than the standard message rate in consideration of its being sent and delivered subject to priority in service of regular messages. Such telegrams are called by the Western Union Company {day letters}, or {night letters} according to the time of sending, and by The Postal Telegraph Company {day lettergrams}, or {night lettergrams}. [Webster 1913 Suppl.]

{Dead letter}, {Drop letter}, etc. See under {Dead}, {Drop}, etc.

{Letter book}, a book in which copies of letters are kept.

{Letter box}, a box for the reception of letters to be mailed or delivered.

{Letter carrier}, a person who carries letters; a postman; specif., an officer of the post office who carries letters to the persons to whom they are addressed, and collects letters to be mailed.

{Letter cutter}, one who engraves letters or letter punches.

{Letter lock}, a lock that can not be opened when fastened, unless certain movable lettered rings or disks forming a part of it are in such a position (indicated by a particular combination of the letters) as to permit the bolt to be withdrawn. [1913 Webster]

A strange lock that opens with AMEN. --Beau. & Fl.

{Letter paper}, paper for writing letters on; especially, a size of paper intermediate between note paper and foolscap. See {Paper}.

{Letter punch}, a steel punch with a letter engraved on the end, used in making the matrices for type.

{Letters of administration} (Law), the instrument by which an administrator or administratrix is authorized to administer the goods and estate of a deceased person.

{Letter of attorney}, {Letter of credit}, etc. See under {Attorney}, {Credit}, etc.

{Letter of license}, a paper by which creditors extend a debtor's time for paying his debts.

{Letters close} or {Letters clause} (Eng. Law.), letters or writs directed to particular persons for particular purposes, and hence closed or sealed on the outside; -- distinguished from {letters patent}. --Burrill.

{Letters of orders} (Eccl.), a document duly signed and sealed, by which a bishop makes it known that he has regularly ordained a certain person as priest, deacon, etc.

{Letters patent}, {Letters overt}, or {Letters open} (Eng. Law), a writing executed and sealed, by which power and authority are granted to a person to do some act, or enjoy some right; as, letters patent under the seal of England. The common commercial {patent} is a derivative form of such a right.

{Letter-sheet envelope}, a stamped sheet of letter paper issued by the government, prepared to be folded and sealed for transmission by mail without an envelope.

{Letters testamentary} (Law), an instrument granted by the proper officer to an executor after probate of a will, authorizing him to act as executor.

{Letter writer}. (a) One who writes letters. (b) A machine for copying letters. (c) A book giving directions and forms for the writing of letters. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • dead letter — {n. phr.} An undeliverable letter that ends up in a special office holding such letters. * /There is a dead letter office in most major cities./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • dead letter — {n. phr.} An undeliverable letter that ends up in a special office holding such letters. * /There is a dead letter office in most major cities./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • dead letter — in general use, is properly a rule or regulation that is no longer observed; for example, capital punishment is a dead letter when it remains on the statute book although it is not used. The term should not be applied to aspects of life that have …   Modern English usage

  • dead letter — dead letter, adj. 1. a law, ordinance, etc., that has lost its force but has not been formally repealed or abolished. 2. a letter that cannot reach the addressee or be returned to the sender, usually because of incorrect address, and that is sent …   Universalium

  • dead letter — dead letters N COUNT If you say that a law or agreement is a dead letter, you mean that it still exists but people ignore it. No one does anything about it and the law becomes a dead letter …   English dictionary

  • dead letter — n 1.) a law, idea etc that still exists but that people no longer obey 2.) a letter that cannot be delivered or returned …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • dead letter — noun count 1. ) a letter that can neither be delivered nor returned to anyone, because the addresses are missing or not complete 2. ) a law, agreement, or tradition that people no longer pay any attention to …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • dead letter — ► NOUN 1) a law or treaty which has not been repealed but is defunct in practice. 2) a letter that has not been delivered or claimed …   English terms dictionary

  • dead letter — n. 1. a law, practice, etc. no longer enforced or operative but not formally done away with 2. a letter that cannot be delivered or returned, as because of incorrect address and lack of return address …   English World dictionary

  • Dead letter — (engl., spr. dedd, »toter Brief«), ein wegen ungenügender Adresse oder aus andern Gründen unbestellbarer Brief, »Rückbrief« …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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