Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for July 26, 2020 is:

epistolary • ih-PIST-uh-lair-ee  • adjective

1 : of, relating to, or suitable to a letter

2 : contained in or carried on by letters

3 : written in the form of a series of letters


“Jonathan Franzen, with whom he had struck up an epistolary friendship, offered to get together that April when he was in Boston.” — D. T. Max, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, 2012

“It is an epistolary novel, but spare, as opposed to an 18th-century novel like Clarissa, in which female characters write twice a day. Very few letters are exchanged between the friends; sometimes years pass in between.” — Don Noble, The Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News, 2 May 2020

Did you know?

Epistolary was formed from the noun epistle, which refers to a composition written in the form of a letter to a particular person or group. In its original sense, epistle refers to one of the 21 letters (such as those from the apostle Paul) found in the New Testament. Epistle came to English in the 13th century, via Anglo-French and Latin, from the Greek noun epistolē, meaning “message” or “letter.” Epistolē, in turn, came from the verb epistellein, meaning “to send to” or “to send from.” Epistolary appeared in English four centuries after epistle and can be used to describe something related to or contained in a letter (as in “epistolary greetings”) or composed of letters (as in “an epistolary novel”).

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