Definition of cuneiform in US English:



  • 1Denoting or relating to the wedge-shaped characters used in the ancient writing systems of Mesopotamia, Persia, and Ugarit, surviving mainly impressed on clay tablets.

    ‘a cuneiform inscription’
    • ‘The Babylonians wrote on tablets of unbaked clay, using cuneiform writing.’
    • ‘The beginnings have been found in palace archives - hoards of clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform - in Mesopotamia.’
    • ‘Yet, one still would have to show that this Egyptian creation was transferred to Mesopotamia, and that the Sumerian proto-cuneiform and cuneiform writing derived from Egypt.’
    • ‘People in different civilisations have invented different writing systems: for example, scripts in Egypt, the cuneiform images in Mesopotamia, and Chinese characters in China.’
    • ‘The later Babylonians adopted the same style of cuneiform writing on clay tablets.’
    • ‘Among them is a single display of Babylonian cuneiform tablets that accounts for nine missing items.’
    • ‘Over 4000 years ago the Sumerian merchants of Babylon and Nineveh recorded bills, receipts and promissory notes in cuneiform script on clay tablets.’
    • ‘To prevent people from stealing their precious glass secrets, the instructions were written in cuneiform upon clay tablets.’
    • ‘While we were waiting for these to air dry, I used the time to have the students research the uses of clay slabs in cuneiform writing and pictographic writing.’
    • ‘From beneath mounds of sand and debris, Babylon and Nineveh were exposed to view together with whole libraries of clay cuneiform tablets.’
    • ‘They were Sumerian and Akkadian words inscribed in parallel columns on clay tablets in cuneiform writing and were organized thematically.’
    • ‘The Sumerians are credited with inventing the cuneiform system of writing, which was originally pictographic but gradually became stylized.’
    • ‘Gilgamesh is a collection of poems engraved in cuneiform script on clay tablets from ancient Mesopotamia (today's Middle East).’
    • ‘In Nippur, for example, which was one of the most important sites in ancient Mesopotamia, many cuneiform tablets - including a copy of the Gilgamesh epic - are missing.’
    • ‘He is illiterate, but a collection of ancient cuneiform inscriptions near his home assume great significance for him, and from them he constructs his own symbols and written language.’
    • ‘The exhibition provides a history of writing: pictogram, hieroglyph, cuneiform, alphabet, all of these are represented.’
    • ‘Digital representations of the tablets bearing the cuneiform writing of ancient Mesopotamia have started appearing on the Internet.’
    • ‘Based on the above, he was able to conclude that the immediate precursor of cuneiform writing was a system of tokens.’
    • ‘In 1843 he was appointed British consul in Baghdad and this allowed extra time for his studies, especially work on cuneiform tablets found at Assyrian cities such as Nimrud and Nineveh.’
    • ‘In 1844, he scaled the almost sheer cliffs of Bisitun, in Persia, copying relief sculptures and their accompanying cuneiform inscriptions in Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian.’
    1. 1.1Anatomy Denoting three bones of the tarsus (ankle) between the navicular bone and the metatarsals.
      • ‘First, there was a broken cuneiform bone in his left foot.’
      • ‘The peroneus longus muscle also inserts onto the inferior surface of the first cuneiform bone.’
      • ‘Wounds on the foot consisted of exposed long extensor tendons and medial cuneiform and navicular bones and first metatarsal bone was exposed along its length up to the first metatarsal phalangeal joint.’
    2. 1.2Biology Wedge-shaped.
      ‘the eggs are cuneiform’
      • ‘The paired, club-shaped, elastic cuneiform cartilages are anterior to the corniculate cartilages.’
      • ‘Elastic cartilage is found in the external ear, auditory tube, epiglottis, and corniculate and cuneiform cartilages of the larynx.’


  • Cuneiform writing.

    • ‘Although the idea may have come from Mesopotamia, the script was independent of the cuneiform.’
    • ‘Their basic economic organization and system of writing cuneiform, architectural forms, and legal practices remained in use.’
    • ‘An extinct script, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Babylonian cuneiform or the glyphs of the ancient Maya of Central America, may strike us as little short of miraculous and bizarrely different from our own alphabetic scripts.’
    • ‘‘No ice,’ concluded a lengthy report written by a bloke in, for no discernible reason, Ancient Hittite cuneiform.’
    • ‘Features described by the ancients - mountain passes, hill flanks, and the great plain - stood suddenly revealed before us, all in their proper places, as the Mesopotamian geography yielded its secrets like a dusty cuneiform.’


Late 17th century: from French cunéiforme or modern Latin cuneiformis, from Latin cuneus ‘wedge’.