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’
    • ‘Mrs Sulley taught me the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represented.’
    • ‘There was the alphabet up on the wall, and the teacher explained to us five-year-olds straight off, how the letters represented sounds.’
    • ‘Three of its vowels are each represented by a letter of the alphabet.’
    • ‘I typed the second letter of the alphabet.’
    • ‘After all, the first letter of the alphabet you are now reading had its genesis as a symbolic representation of an ox.’
    • ‘The flags are held, arms extended, in various positions representing each of the letters of the alphabet or numbers.’
    • ‘For the present we are concentrating on ciphers where the basic symbols are the letters of the English alphabet.’
    • ‘It probably had something to do with beta being the second letter in the Greek alphabet.’
    • ‘If three letters together represent a single sound, they constitute a trigraph, such as tch in catch and sch in schmaltz.’
    • ‘I had to relearn how to position my mouth and tongue to form the sounds of each letter of the alphabet.’
    • ‘Lowercase letters indicate the flanking region, and capital letters indicate the microsatellite region.’
    • ‘Children and teachers were sitting looking at books together, but they were not being taught the alphabet and the sounds different letters represent.’
    • ‘The reason that their explanations didn't quite work is that they made the mistake of referring to letters rather than to sounds.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Our names would have been around the first four letters of the alphabet.’
    • ‘However, by using special lighting techniques it was seen that some of the characters looked like letters of the Russian alphabet.’
    • ‘You know that the last letter of the English alphabet is always pronounced ‘Zed’.’
    • ‘The region indicated by lowercase letters represents the P-element sequence.’
    • ‘Yes, there are some children who are severely dyslexic - who have trouble with basic sounds and alphabet letters.’
    alphabetical character, character, sign, symbol, mark, type, figure, device, rune
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    1. 1.1US A school or college initial as a mark of proficiency, especially in sports.
      as modifier ‘a letter jacket’
      ‘I earned a varsity letter in tennis’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She was wearing a pair of black pants with a purple velvet shirt under her letter jacket.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The night was winding down when Javier King saw the young man in a letter jacket walk up towards him.’
      • ‘He had given his letter jacket to Lisa and she was still wearing it, safe and warm in the confines of the clinic.’
      • ‘Throughout school, he also pursued sports, earning a varsity letter in wrestling while at Harvard.’
      • ‘He always tried to show Matt up by going out for more sports, earning more letters or getting better grades.’
      • ‘You know their mother would have been so proud if they had made varsity and gotten a letter!’
      • ‘Some appear to have just discovered grunge; others wear navy-colored jackets with red sports letters.’
      • ‘Jared Jameson stood there, his letter jacket over his shoulders as usual.’
  • 2A written, typed, or printed communication, especially one sent in an envelope by mail or messenger.

    ‘he sent a letter to Mrs. Falconer’
    • ‘Can you tell how awful I am at writing love letters?’
    • ‘Please fax or e-mail a resume and cover letter stating your interest.’
    • ‘There were four letters of objection to the development from residents.’
    • ‘Richmond Police are sending warning letters to parents of children caught buying or attempting to buy alcohol.’
    • ‘Four of the alternatives relied on the letter of intent dated 5th February 1997.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Write them a letter, or send them a fax, or call them, or better yet, go see them!’
    • ‘What does he want as proof, a duly signed letter of intent?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Why was the covering letter dated 12 June 1997?’
    • ‘Headteachers have been told to stop sending warning letters to parents alerting them to outbreaks of head lice in schools.’
    • ‘You sign a letter of intent pledging to invest a higher amount within 13 months.’
    • ‘He also sent out the letter before he wrote it (according to the date).’
    • ‘Instead, they issued an open letter to the mayor demanding the release of the four leaders.’
    • ‘I must have written him a letter, because he sent me a postcard in reply.’
    • ‘He was eventually jailed for two years in 1997 for sending threatening letters to a Scottish newspaper and news agency.’
    • ‘For example, most daily newspapers will not publish anonymous letters to the editor.’
    • ‘Submit an Op-Ed to your local paper or send letters to the editor about EC.’
    • ‘I could get more rejection letters in a week than it had previously taken me ten years to get!’
    • ‘There have been no letters of objection and the plans are earmarked for approval.’
    written message, message, written communication, communication, note, line, missive, epistle, dispatch, report, bulletin
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    1. 2.1letters Printed communications as legal or formal documents.
      • ‘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 precise terms of a statement or requirement; the strict verbal interpretation.

    ‘we must be seen to 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
    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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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’.’
    • ‘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 sports.

    ‘juniors who lettered in soccer, basketball, or softball’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In high school, she lettered in five sports - soccer, track, basketball, softball, and, with the boys, football.’
    • ‘Freeney lettered in four sports in high school and was an outstanding soccer player before making the switch to football.’
    • ‘Kenney graduated from high school in Iowa City, Iowa, where he lettered in football.’
    • ‘In both he was a magnificent athlete, lettering in football, baseball, basketball, and track.’


  • to the letter

    • With adherence to every detail.

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