aman·​u·​en·​sis | \ ə-ˌman-yə-ˈwen(t)-səs How to pronounce amanuensis (audio) \
plural amanuenses\ ə-​ˌman-​yə-​ˈwen(t)-​(ˌ)sēz How to pronounce amanuensis (audio) \

Definition of amanuensis

: one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript composed her autobiography with the help of an amanuensis

The Etymology of Amanuensis

In Latin, the phrase servus a manu translates loosely as "slave with secretarial duties." (The noun manu, meaning "hand," gave us words such as manuscript, which originally referred to a document written or typed by hand.) In the 17th century the second part of this phrase was borrowed into English to create amanuensis, a word for a person who is employed (willingly) to do the important but sometimes menial work of transcribing the words of another. While other quaint words, such as scribe or scrivener, might have similarly described the functions of such a person in the past, these days we're likely to call him or her a secretary or an administrative assistant.

Examples of amanuensis in a Sentence

thanks to the efforts of his dutiful amanuensis, copies of most of the author's letters and unpublished manuscripts have been preserved
Recent Examples on the Web Andy had aided him in his earliest experiments, serving first as something of a guinea-pig-cum-amanuensis. Kent Russell, Harper’s Magazine , 25 May 2022 There’s a religious scribe named Nahman of Busk, who functions as Jacob’s amanuensis and whose diary entries depict a man struggling with the idea that enlightenment might not really be all that useful. Jake Bittle, The New Republic, 2 Mar. 2022 As much amanuensis as protagonist, Ms Broom weaves her memories and her mother’s testimony into a personal, historical and sociological study of African-American life in New Orleans. The Economist, 8 Aug. 2019 The screenwriters of Lucky have acted as amanuenses to their friend, giving his memories one last go-around on camera. Christian Lorentzen, New Republic, 29 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'amanuensis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of amanuensis

1619, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for amanuensis

Latin, from (servus) a manu slave with secretarial duties

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The first known use of amanuensis was in 1619

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a man/woman/person of substance

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Cite this Entry

“Amanuensis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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