inkhorn

noun
ink·​horn | \ ˈiŋk-ˌhȯrn How to pronounce inkhorn (audio) \

Definition of inkhorn

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small portable bottle (as of horn) for holding ink

inkhorn

adjective

Definition of inkhorn (Entry 2 of 2)

: ostentatiously learned : pedantic inkhorn terms

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Adjective

Picture an ancient scribe, pen in hand, a small ink bottle made from an animal's horn strapped to his belt, ready to record the great events of history. In 14th-century England, such ink bottles were dubbed (not surprisingly) "inkhorns." During the Renaissance, learned writers often borrowed words from Latin and Greek, eschewing vulgar English alternatives. But in the 16th century, some scholars argued for the use of native terms over Latinate forms, and a lively intellectual debate over the merits of each began. Those who favored English branded what they considered ostentatious Latinisms "inkhorn terms" after the bottles carried by scholars, and since then we have used "inkhorn" as an adjective for pretentious language.

First Known Use of inkhorn

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

1543, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of inkhorn was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Inkhorn.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inkhorn. Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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