or·​thog·​ra·​phy ȯr-ˈthä-grə-fē How to pronounce orthography (audio)
: the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage
the rules of English orthography
: the representation of the sounds of a language by written or printed symbols
: a part of language study that deals with letters and spelling
A student of orthography is likely to be a good speller.

Did you know?

The concept of orthography (a term that comes from the Greek words orthos, meaning “right or true,” and graphein, meaning “to write”) was not something that really concerned English speakers until the introduction of the printing press in England in the second half of the 15th century. From that point on, English spelling became progressively more uniform. Our orthography has been relatively stable since the 1755 publication of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, with the notable exception of certain spelling reforms, such as the change of musick to music. Incidentally, many of these reforms were championed by Merriam-Webster’s own Noah Webster.

Examples of orthography in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The thing about spelling is that orthography seems to have become de-emphasized over the years. Robert Klose, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 Sep. 2023 By the 19th century, though, proper orthography had become big business. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 June 2023 Many of the library’s manuscripts, some dating to the ninth century and written in Devanagari script (an ancient orthography system still used across the Indian subcontinent) on birch bark and palm leaves rolled up and held by clay seals, had been moved downstairs. Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 May 2021 The class is held on Wednesdays via Zoom and will be covering Moses-Columbian language history, phonetics/orthography, vocabulary, and grammar. oregonlive, 8 Oct. 2021 The monks struggled to fit Latin orthography onto some Anglo-Saxon sounds. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Aug. 2021 In 1870, reading English was required for Harvard, while Princeton required English grammar and orthography. Melissa Gira Grant, The New Republic, 9 Aug. 2021 But English is, of course, a very peculiar language, as Bernard Shaw complains, the orthography and the pronunciation have nothing in common. Gabe Friedman, sun-sentinel.com, 17 Oct. 2019 The governments of Nunavut and of Canada, the newspaper’s biggest advertisers, still want adverts set in syllabics and in the roman orthography now used for Inuinnaqtun, an official language in the territory. The Economist, 3 Oct. 2019 See More

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

Word History


Middle English ortografie, from Anglo-French, from Latin orthographia, from Greek, from orth- + graphein to write — more at carve

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of orthography was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near orthography

Cite this Entry

“Orthography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orthography. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


or·​thog·​ra·​phy ȯr-ˈthäg-rə-fē How to pronounce orthography (audio)
plural orthographies
: correct spelling
: a way or style of spelling
also orthographical

More from Merriam-Webster on orthography

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!