lit·​er·​a·​ture | \ ˈli-tə-rə-ˌchu̇r, ˈli-trə-ˌchu̇r, ˈli-tər-ˌchu̇r, ˈli-tə-, -chər, -ˌtyu̇r, -ˌtu̇r \

Definition of literature

1 archaic : literary culture
2 : the production of literary work especially as an occupation Literature is his profession.
3a(1) : writings in prose or verse especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest literature stands related to man as science stands to nature — J. H. Newman
(2) : an example of such writings what came out, though rarely literature, was always a roaring good storyPeople
b : the body of written works produced in a particular language, country, or age French literature Renaissance literature
c : the body of writings on a particular subject scientific literature
d : printed matter (such as leaflets or circulars) campaign literature
4 : the aggregate of a usually specified type of musical compositions the Brahms piano literature

Examples of literature in a Sentence

She took courses in history and literature. Her education gave her an appreciation for great literature. He's an expert in American literature. the literature of the Renaissance studies in different Asian literatures Can you send me some literature about your product?
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Recent Examples on the Web

The literature still has serious limits, not least that it is dominated by studies of the U.S. and Europe. Sriya Iyer, WSJ, "The Marketplace of Faith," 27 Dec. 2018 Spencer Platt/Getty Images Voters tend to be cynical about politicians’ promises, but there’s an overwhelming consensus in the political science literature that politicians make good-faith efforts to fulfill their campaign promises. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "I’m starting to think Mexico isn’t going to pay for the wall," 20 Dec. 2018 The researchers also asked participants to respond to scales published in the literature. Rachel Becker, The Verge, "The problem with studies saying phones are bad for you," 5 Dec. 2018 Luckily, my enthusiasm for English literature was just as fervent as my taste for nightclubs. Fernanda Eberstadt, Vogue, "Wild, Free, and Utterly Lost—Writer Fernanda Eberstadt on the Panic and Pitfalls of Post-Collegiate Life," 30 July 2018 The International Hoccleve Society, formed in 2011, is devoted to promoting scholarship related to the late-medieval poet, a key figure in 15th-century Middle English literature. Courant Community, "Community News For The Putnam-Killingly Edition," 10 July 2018 Her undergraduate degree was in English literature. Maureen Groppe, Indianapolis Star, "10 things to know about Amy Coney Barrett, a top contender for the Supreme Court," 8 July 2018 Scarcely anything in literature is worth a damn, except what is written between the lines.’ That’s really where the talent is, if there is such a thing. George Varga,, "Kinky Friedman explains how Willie Nelson and misery inspired his new album," 14 Apr. 2018 There are a good number of LGBTQ-friendly books in children’s literature now, but there’s still not enough, and of the variety that would reflect the diversity of experience even within that group. Brittany Martin, Los Angeles Magazine, "This L.A. Illustrator Just Created the Gender-Fluid Fairy Tale We All Need," 16 Mar. 2018

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

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First Known Use of literature

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for literature

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin litteratura writing, grammar, learning, from litteratus

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2019

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The first known use of literature was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of literature

: written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance

: books, articles, etc., about a particular subject

: printed materials (such as booklets, leaflets, and brochures) that provide information about something


lit·​er·​a·​ture | \ ˈli-tə-rə-ˌchu̇r \

Kids Definition of literature

1 : written works considered as having high quality and ideas of lasting and widespread interest
2 : written material I read some travel literature before my vacation.

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More from Merriam-Webster on literature

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with literature

Spanish Central: Translation of literature

Nglish: Translation of literature for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of literature for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about literature

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What made you want to look up literature? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a complex dispute or argument

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