co·​dex ˈkō-ˌdeks How to pronounce codex (audio)
plural codices ˈkō-də-ˌsēz How to pronounce codex (audio) ˈkä- How to pronounce codex (audio)
: a manuscript book especially of Scripture, classics, or ancient annals

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In the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., the codex began to replace the older scroll as the preferred form for longer writings. Unlike the scroll, this wonderful invention permitted writing on both sides of a sheet, made it easy to locate a particular passage, and could contain a very long piece of writing. Codices (note this unusual plural form) were usually written on parchment, the specially prepared skin of a sheep or goat, or papyrus, the ancestor of paper. Because codices were handwritten, there were few copies of any single codex, and sometimes only a single copy. Today we no longer write our books in longhand, but the modern book has kept basically the same form as the original codices.

Examples of codex in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Studs are like codex for the alternative — unmistakable messaging that turns any chill fit into a statement. Julissa James, Los Angeles Times, 10 Apr. 2024 The 104-page codex was written in Coptic on papyrus over the course of 40 years, Reuters noted. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 9 Apr. 2024 Maya scribes kept accounts of the astronomical observations in codices, hieroglyphic folding books made from fig bark paper. Kimberly H. Breuer, Discover Magazine, 5 Apr. 2024 The codex features Coptic script, an Egyptian language written in the Greek alphabet primarily used by Christians. Sonja Anderson, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Apr. 2024 The codex is on display at Christie's New York and will remain there until April 9. Lucia Suarez Sang, CBS News, 5 Apr. 2024 Some codices were small enough to be held in one hand, and Cicero claimed to have seen a copy of the Iliad that fit in a nutshell. Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 The codex, easily transportable and containing larger quantities of text, won favor with the rising Christian movement, suiting both its rituals and its experience of persecution. Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker, 19 Feb. 2024 As an online source, the codex, initially written in Nahuatl and Spanish, was translated into English. Elizabeth Gamillo, Discover Magazine, 4 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'codex.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin — more at code

First Known Use

1661, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of codex was in 1661

Dictionary Entries Near codex

Cite this Entry

“Codex.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


co·​dex ˈkō-ˌdeks How to pronounce codex (audio)
plural codices ˈkōd-ə-ˌsēz How to pronounce codex (audio) ˈkäd- How to pronounce codex (audio)
: an official or standard collection of drug formulas and descriptions
a codex similar to the British Pharmaceutical Codex

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