abe·​ce·​dar·​i·​an | \ ˌā-bē-(ˌ)sē-ˈder-ē-ən How to pronounce abecedarian (audio) \

Definition of abecedarian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: one learning the rudiments of something (such as the alphabet)



Definition of abecedarian (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : of or relating to the alphabet
b : alphabetically arranged

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Did You Know?


The history of abecedarian is as simple as ABC-literally. The term's Late Latin ancestor, abecedarius (which meant "of the alphabet"), was created as a combination of the letters A, B, C, and D, plus the adjective suffix -arius; you can hear the echo of that origin in the pronunciation of the English term (think "ABC-darian"). In its oldest documented English uses in the early 1600s, abecedarian was a noun meaning "one learning the rudiments of something"; it specifically referred to someone who was learning the alphabet. The adjective began appearing in English texts around 1665.

Examples of abecedarian in a Sentence

Noun abecedarians soon learn that martial arts have a spiritual as well as physical side Adjective an abecedarian approach to historical study

First Known Use of abecedarian


1603, in the meaning defined above


1732, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for abecedarian


abecedary "alphabet book, primer" (going back to Middle English abscedary, borrowed from Medieval Latin abecedārium "alphabet, primer," derived from neuter of Late Latin abecedārius "alphabetical," from the names of the letters a + b + c + d + Latin -ārius -ary entry 2) + -an entry 1


abecedary "alphabet book, primer" + -an entry 2 — more at abecedarian entry 1

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The first known use of abecedarian was in 1603

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Cite this Entry

“Abecedarian.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abecedarian. Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on abecedarian

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for abecedarian

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