1 a : the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage
b : the representation of the sounds of a language by written or printed symbols
2 : a part of language study that deals with letters and spelling
Did You Know?
"It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word!" That quote, ascribed to Andrew Jackson, might have been the motto of early English spelling. The concept of orthography (a term that derives from the Greek words "orthos," meaning "right or true," and "graphein," meaning "to write") was not something that really concerned people until the introduction of the printing press in England in the second half of the 15th century. From then on, English spelling became progressively more uniform and has remained fairly stable since the 1755 publication of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (with the notable exception of certain spelling reforms, such as changing "musick" to "music," that were championed by Noah Webster).
English orthography was not yet regularized in Shakespeare's time, so words often had many different spellings.
"There's no active pro-Russian policy, as there was under the czars or the Soviets-simply a slow creep of money away from education budgets and new laws reinforcing Cyrillic orthography and the use of Russian in classrooms." - From an article by Britt Peterson in The Boston Globe, February 16, 2014
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What relative of "orthography" can refer to the art or science of making maps that show the height, shape, etc., of the land in a particular area? The answer is …
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