Word of the Day : March 19, 2019


noun or-THAH-gruh-fee


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 William Shakespeare's time, so words often had many different spellings.

"He had to finish his thesis … before leaving for a research job in Australia, where he planned to study aboriginal languages. I asked him to assess our little experiment. 'The grammar was easy,' he said. 'The orthography is a little difficult, and the verbs seemed chaotic.'" — Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 3 Sept. 2018

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?



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