plural noun
mar·​gi·​na·​lia | \ ˌmär-jə-ˈnā-lē-ə How to pronounce marginalia (audio) \

Definition of marginalia

1 : marginal notes or embellishments (as in a book)
2 : nonessential items the meat and marginalia of American politicsSaturday Rev.

Where does marginalia come from?

We don't consider a word's etymology to be marginalia, so we'll start off by telling you the etymology of this one. Marginalia is a New Latin word that can be traced back to the Latin forms margin- and margo, meaning "margin." Marginalia is a relatively new word; our earliest evidence of its use is from 1819. The related adjective marginal is quite a bit older; it was first used in 1573. On the other end of the spectrum is another relative, marginalize. That word was first used in 1970.

Examples of marginalia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web My marginalia became a series of handholds on the placid smoothness of the page. New York Times, 2 Nov. 2021 Bookmarking and highlighting remain the only counterparts to dogearing and marginalia. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, 14 Sep. 2021 This common medieval practice of marginalia as a space for the delightful, the grotesque, and the zany is enchantingly Groff’s as well., 2 Sep. 2021 All the while, Rumsfeld produced his proverbs, doodling mystic marginalia in the pages of history, reducing war and torture and other awful realities into blunt queries and gruff turns of phrase. Washington Post, 1 July 2021 My questions are: Who has the courage to say our kids don’t have time for such marginalia? Washington Post, 12 Mar. 2021 Progressing from scene to scene like a comic strip, the upper and lower bands are richly decorated with marginalia: Scenes from the fables of Aesop or of the pleasures of the hunt. National Geographic, 6 Nov. 2020 This space invites your contemplation and reactions to the text but not as marginalia, as full dialogue. Michael Kleber-diggs Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 4 Sep. 2020 The male novelist sends me his notes on Nietzsche, written during his undergraduate years, with his anxious marginalia listing which philosophers remained unmarried. New York Times, 19 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'marginalia.' 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 marginalia

1819, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for marginalia

New Latin, from Medieval Latin, neuter plural of marginalis

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The first known use of marginalia was in 1819

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Dictionary Entries Near marginalia

marginal head



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Last Updated

7 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Marginalia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2021.

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