Definition of palimpsest
- Canada … is a palimpsest, an overlay of classes and generations.
- —Margaret Atwood
- too short a time to get to know the palimpsest of Genevan societies, let alone those of Switzerland
- —George Steiner
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The ancient city is an architectural palimpsest.
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In olden days, writing surfaces were so rare that they were often used more than once. "Palimpsest" originally described an early form of recycling in which an old document was erased to make room for a new one when parchment ran short. Fortunately for modern scholars, the erasing process wasn't completely effective, so the original could often be distinguished under the newer writing. De republica, by Roman statesman and orator Cicero, is one of many documents thus recovered from a palimpsest. Nowadays, the word palimpsest can refer not only to such a document but to anything that has multiple layers.
First Known Use: 1825See Words from the same year
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