amanuensis

noun

aman·​u·​en·​sis ə-ˌman-yə-ˈwen(t)-səs How to pronounce amanuensis (audio)
: one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript
composed her autobiography with the help of an amanuensis

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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thanks to the efforts of his dutiful amanuensis, copies of most of the author's letters and unpublished manuscripts have been preserved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 The character in the movie has an amanuensis. Susan Morrison, The New Yorker, 5 Sep. 2021 Francesca, one of her former students, works tirelessly as Lydia’s factotum, amanuensis, and personal assistant, in the expectation of becoming her assistant conductor in Berlin. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 12 Oct. 2022 Intermittent presidential advisor and capital-class amanuensis Larry Summers has, in similar terms, endorsed the idea that American workers must give up their labor market gains in order to end inflation. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 6 Aug. 2022 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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'amanuensis.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1619, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of amanuensis was in 1619

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Cite this Entry

“Amanuensis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amanuensis. Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

amanuensis

noun
aman·​u·​en·​sis ə-ˌman-yə-ˈwen(t)-səs How to pronounce amanuensis (audio)
plural amanuenses -ˈwen(t)-sēz How to pronounce amanuensis (audio)
: a person employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript : secretary
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