Definition of letter in English:



  • 1A character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet.

    ‘a capital letter’
    • ‘The numbers represent the letters of the alphabet, which in turn are connected to a key word and then to informatics and finally to knowledge development.’
    • ‘Yes, there are some children who are severely dyslexic - who have trouble with basic sounds and alphabet letters.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I typed the second letter of the alphabet.’
    • ‘For the present we are concentrating on ciphers where the basic symbols are the letters of the English alphabet.’
    • ‘However, by using special lighting techniques it was seen that some of the characters looked like letters of the Russian alphabet.’
    • ‘There was the alphabet up on the wall, and the teacher explained to us five-year-olds straight off, how the letters represented sounds.’
    • ‘You know that the last letter of the English alphabet is always pronounced ‘Zed’.’
    • ‘The flags are held, arms extended, in various positions representing each of the letters of the alphabet or numbers.’
    • ‘Lowercase letters indicate the flanking region, and capital letters indicate the microsatellite region.’
    • ‘The region indicated by lowercase letters represents the P-element sequence.’
    • ‘Mrs Sulley taught me the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represented.’
    • ‘I had to relearn how to position my mouth and tongue to form the sounds of each letter of the alphabet.’
    • ‘Children and teachers were sitting looking at books together, but they were not being taught the alphabet and the sounds different letters represent.’
    • ‘After all, the first letter of the alphabet you are now reading had its genesis as a symbolic representation of an ox.’
    • ‘The reason that their explanations didn't quite work is that they made the mistake of referring to letters rather than to sounds.’
    • ‘Three of its vowels are each represented by a letter of the alphabet.’
    • ‘Our names would have been around the first four letters of the alphabet.’
    • ‘It probably had something to do with beta being the second letter in the Greek alphabet.’
    alphabetical character, character, sign, symbol, mark, type, figure, device, rune
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    1. 1.1lettersBritish informal The initials of a degree or other qualification.
      ‘your personality matters far more than letters after your name’
      • ‘One large test and a somewhat rigorous industry experience qualification and I can now put some letters after my name.’
      • ‘Ballina woman Dorothy Duffy already has eleven letters of qualification after her name.’
      • ‘Advisers who have gained this qualification will have the letters AFPC after their names.’
      learning, scholarship, erudition, education, knowledge, book learning, academic training
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    2. 1.2US A school or college initial as a mark of proficiency, especially in sport.
      as modifier ‘a letter jacket’
      • ‘She was wearing a pair of black pants with a purple velvet shirt under her letter jacket.’
      • ‘Some appear to have just discovered grunge; others wear navy-colored jackets with red sports letters.’
      • ‘The night was winding down when Javier King saw the young man in a letter jacket walk up towards him.’
      • ‘They fawned over him just because he had a good smile, a fancy car, and a varsity letter jacket.’
      • ‘He wore his letter jacket as proudly as a king would his crown, and he hauled his bag over one shoulder.’
      • ‘Jared Jameson stood there, his letter jacket over his shoulders as usual.’
      • ‘Throughout school, he also pursued sports, earning a varsity letter in wrestling while at Harvard.’
      • ‘You know their mother would have been so proud if they had made varsity and gotten a letter!’
      • ‘He had given his letter jacket to Lisa and she was still wearing it, safe and warm in the confines of the clinic.’
      • ‘I do not have a leather American jacket with the varsity letter on the left chest.’
      • ‘There, he became the first man of any race to earn letters in four sports.’
      • ‘He always tried to show Matt up by going out for more sports, earning more letters or getting better grades.’
  • 2A written, typed, or printed communication, sent in an envelope by post or messenger.

    ‘he sent a letter to Mrs Falconer’
    • ‘He also sent out the letter before he wrote it (according to the date).’
    • ‘There have been no letters of objection and the plans are earmarked for approval.’
    • ‘Please fax or e-mail a resume and cover letter stating your interest.’
    • ‘He was eventually jailed for two years in 1997 for sending threatening letters to a Scottish newspaper and news agency.’
    • ‘Headteachers have been told to stop sending warning letters to parents alerting them to outbreaks of head lice in schools.’
    • ‘The strangest part of it is that the press just printed it without checking in to see if we really wrote or sent the letter.’
    • ‘Four of the alternatives relied on the letter of intent dated 5th February 1997.’
    • ‘Instead, they issued an open letter to the mayor demanding the release of the four leaders.’
    • ‘You sign a letter of intent pledging to invest a higher amount within 13 months.’
    • ‘I could get more rejection letters in a week than it had previously taken me ten years to get!’
    • ‘Why was the covering letter dated 12 June 1997?’
    • ‘For example, most daily newspapers will not publish anonymous letters to the editor.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Submit an Op-Ed to your local paper or send letters to the editor about EC.’
    • ‘What does he want as proof, a duly signed letter of intent?’
    • ‘Richmond Police are sending warning letters to parents of children caught buying or attempting to buy alcohol.’
    • ‘There were four letters of objection to the development from residents.’
    • ‘Can you tell how awful I am at writing love letters?’
    • ‘Write them a letter, or send them a fax, or call them, or better yet, go see them!’
    written message, message, written communication, communication, note, line, missive, epistle, dispatch, report, bulletin
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    1. 2.1letters A legal or formal document.
      • ‘As well, he was unable to open an Estate bank account until the letters of probate were issued, which occurred on November 14, 1997.’
      documents, certificates, forms, letters, files, deeds, records, dossiers, diaries, archives, legal papers, paperwork, documentation
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  • 3the letterThe 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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Museum directors and trustees are required to honor the letter and spirit of benefactors' wishes.’
  • 4lettersLiterature.

    ‘the world of letters’
    • ‘Canadian art, literature, and letters have traditionally mythologized the North.’
    written works, writings, writing, creative writing, literary texts, compositions, letters, belles-lettres
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    1. 4.1archaic Scholarly knowledge; erudition.
      learning, book learning, knowledge, erudition, education, letters, culture, academic study, academic achievement, intellectual attainment
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  • 5Printing
    mass noun A style of typeface.


  • 1with object Inscribe letters or writing on.

    ‘her name was lettered in gold’
    • ‘In each case, the parenthetical portion of the title in this series is lettered across the painting's lower edge in a classic upper-case Roman font.’
    • ‘The group logo comprises a giraffe, the animal rendered as if cut out from paper, lettered in a rounded classical font with exaggerated ascenders on the letter ‘f’.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Except for a few brief exceptions, he always pencilled, lettered and inked his own work at the rate of one page per day - no more, no less.’
    • ‘The name has been professionally lettered on in bright letters.’
    1. 1.1 Classify with letters.
      ‘he numbered and lettered the paragraphs’
      • ‘I now have two lists, one for crates, lettered A-L and one for boxes, numbered 1-14.’
  • 2US informal no object Be given a school or college initial as a mark of proficiency in sport.

    ‘in high school she lettered in soccer, basketball and softball’
    • ‘Freeney lettered in four sports in high school and was an outstanding soccer player before making the switch to football.’
    • ‘In high school, she lettered in five sports - soccer, track, basketball, softball, and, with the boys, football.’
    • ‘I didn't letter in sports nor did I greatly excel upon the field of academia.’
    • ‘I finished out the year, actually lettering in the sport.’
    • ‘In both he was a magnificent athlete, lettering in football, baseball, basketball, and track.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Kenney graduated from high school in Iowa City, Iowa, where he lettered in football.’
    • ‘No longer are you just up against the straight-A kid who lettered in four sports and whose minister wrote a letter praising his virtues.’
    • ‘While at the academy, he lettered in football, played in the 1987 Freedom Bowl and was a member of the academy's 1989 rugby team, which won the collegiate national championship.’


  • to the letter

    • With adherence to every detail.

      ‘the method was followed to the letter’
      • ‘It is a case where a strict adherence to the letter would involve an error in substance.’
      • ‘There are guidelines set out for situations like this and we will follow them to the letter.’
      • ‘The council stands by its decision, insisting that the consultation process has been followed to the letter.’
      • ‘Since I never had done something like this before, I followed a recipe to the letter.’
      • ‘She would follow his instructions to the letter but she would not like it at all.’
      • ‘He says his intention is to highlight the absurdities and deceptions in consumer culture by following its rules to the letter.’
      • ‘In short, in implementing this process all steps should be followed to the letter.’
      • ‘The quality was very good and our delivery instructions were followed to the letter.’
      • ‘Controlling officers should also ensure that regulations are followed to the letter.’
      • ‘Remember, the following horoscope is legally binding, and you are obliged to follow it 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
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Middle English: from Old French lettre, from Latin litera, littera ‘letter of the alphabet’, (plural) ‘epistle, literature, culture’.