Word of the Day : June 28, 2011

amanuensis

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noun uh-man-yuh-WEN-sis

Definition

: one employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript

Did You Know?

In Latin, the phrase "servus a manu" translates loosely as "slave with secretarial duties." (The noun "manu," meaning "hand," gave us words such as "manuscript," originally meaning a document written or typed by hand.) In the 17th century the second part of this phrase was borrowed into English to create "amanuensis," a word for a person who is employed (willingly) to do the important but sometimes menial work of transcribing the words of another. While other quaint words, such as "scribe" or "scrivener," might have similarly described the functions of such a person in the past, these days we’re likely to call him or her a "secretary," or maybe an "administrative assistant."


Examples

Marco worked as an amanuensis for a judge who needed to compose his opinions orally while recovering from cataract surgery.

"As early as the 1840s and 1850s, the Ohio Cultivator published women's columns that spoke vividly for women's rights and honed the talents of two important abolitionist feminists, Hanna Maria Tracy Cutler and Frances Dana Gage, who is now best remembered as the amanuensis for Sojourner Truth's 'Ain't I a Woman' speech." -- From Frances W. Kaye's 2011 book Goodlands: A Meditation and History on the Great Plains



Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of "roué," our Word of the Day from June 13? The answer is ...


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