The Collaborative International Dictionary
Letter \Let"ter\, n. [OE. lettre, F. lettre, OF. letre, fr. L. littera, litera, a letter; pl., an epistle, a writing, literature, fr. linere, litum, to besmear, to spread or rub over; because one of the earliest modes of writing was by graving the characters upon tablets smeared over or covered with wax. --Pliny, xiii. 1
See Liniment, and cf. Literal.] 1. A mark or character used as the representative of a sound, or of an articulation of the human organs of speech; a first element of written language.
And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew.
--Luke xxiii. 38.
A written or printed communication; a message expressed in intelligible characters on something adapted to conveyance, as paper, parchment, etc.; an epistle.
The style of letters ought to be free, easy, and natural.
A writing; an inscription. [Obs.]
None could expound what this letter meant.
Verbal expression; literal statement or meaning; exact signification or requirement.
We must observe the letter of the law, without doing violence to the reason of the law and the intention of the lawgiver.
I broke the letter of it to keep the sense.
(Print.) A single type; type, collectively; a style of type.
Under these buildings . . . was the king's printing house, and that famous letter so much esteemed.
pl. Learning; erudition; as, a man of letters.
pl. A letter; an epistle. [Obs.]
(Teleg.) A telegram longer than an ordinary message sent at rates lower than the standard message rate in consideration of its being sent and delivered subject to priority in service of regular messages. Such telegrams are called by the Western Union Company day letters, or night letters according to the time of sending, and by The Postal Telegraph Company day lettergrams, or night lettergrams. Dead letter, Drop letter, etc. See under Dead, Drop, etc. Letter book, a book in which copies of letters are kept. Letter box, a box for the reception of letters to be mailed or delivered. Letter carrier, a person who carries letters; a postman; specif., an officer of the post office who carries letters to the persons to whom they are addressed, and collects letters to be mailed. Letter cutter, one who engraves letters or letter punches. Letter lock, a lock that can not be opened when fastened, unless certain movable lettered rings or disks forming a part of it are in such a position (indicated by a particular combination of the letters) as to permit the bolt to be withdrawn. A strange lock that opens with AMEN. --Beau. & Fl. Letter paper, paper for writing letters on; especially, a size of paper intermediate between note paper and foolscap. See Paper. Letter punch, a steel punch with a letter engraved on the end, used in making the matrices for type. Letters of administration (Law), the instrument by which an administrator or administratrix is authorized to administer the goods and estate of a deceased person. Letter of attorney, Letter of credit, etc. See under Attorney, Credit, etc. Letter of license, a paper by which creditors extend a debtor's time for paying his debts. Letters close or Letters clause (Eng. Law.), letters or writs directed to particular persons for particular purposes, and hence closed or sealed on the outside; -- distinguished from letters patent. --Burrill. Letters of orders (Eccl.), a document duly signed and sealed, by which a bishop makes it known that he has regularly ordained a certain person as priest, deacon, etc. Letters patent, Letters overt, or Letters open (Eng. Law), a writing executed and sealed, by which power and authority are granted to a person to do some act, or enjoy some right; as, letters patent under the seal of England. The common commercial patent is a derivative form of such a right. Letter-sheet envelope, a stamped sheet of letter paper issued by the government, prepared to be folded and sealed for transmission by mail without an envelope. Letters testamentary (Law), an instrument granted by the proper officer to an executor after probate of a will, authorizing him to act as executor. Letter writer.
One who writes letters.
A machine for copying letters.
A book giving directions and forms for the writing of letters.
n. (context legal plurale tantum English) A type of legal document which is an open letter issued by an authority granting a right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or organization.
n. an official document granting a right or privilege [syn: patent]
Letters patent (always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch, president, or other head of state, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation. Letters patent can be used for the creation of corporations or government offices, or for the granting of city status or a coat of arms. Letters patent are issued for the appointment of representatives of the Crown, such as governors and governors-general of Commonwealth realms, as well as appointing a Royal Commission. In the United Kingdom they are also issued for the creation of peers of the realm. A particular form of letters patent has evolved into the modern patent (referred to as a utility patent or design patent in United States patent law) granting exclusive rights in an invention (or a design in the case of a design patent). Clearly in this case it is essential that the written grant should be in the form of a public document so other inventors can consult it to avoid infringement and also to understand how to "practice" the invention, i.e., put it into practical use.
The opposite of letters patent are letters close , which are personal in nature and sealed so that only the recipient can read their contents. Letters patent are thus comparable to other kinds of open letter in that their audience is wide. It is not clear how the contents of letters patent became widely published before collection by the addressee, for example whether they were left after sealing by the king for inspection during a certain period by courtiers in a royal palace, who would disseminate the contents back to the gentry in the shires through normal conversation and social intercourse. Clearly some such mechanism was essential. Today, for example, it is a convention for the British prime minister to announce that he has left a document he wishes to enter the public domain "in the library of the House of Commons", where it may be freely perused by all Members of Parliament.
Usage examples of "letters patent".
Chase, we still don't have an attorney-general, and without him to sign the letters patent, you can't be sworn in.
Petition of Samuel Antrim and others, praying for letters patent for sowing hemp and flax.
And so no later than this evening I am playing link-boy, appointed by letters patent, one might say.
The title can be officially recognized merely by issue of Letters Patent granting full privileges of the honor and the posting and proclamation.
The disobedience of Marseilles, which refuses to receive the magistrates sent under letters patent to take testimony, is tolerated.
He had another reason, as well: to look for some likely parcel of land, at least ten farmsteads' worth, to bestow on Rhodry's woman, Gilyan, Cullyn of Cerrmor's daughter, along with letters patent of nobility.
And think up a new name, will you, since Im going to give you letters patent to carry and so on.
If anyone holding of us a lay fief shall die, and our sheriff or bailiff shall exhibit our letters patent of summons for a debt which the deceased owed us, it shall be lawful for our sheriff or bailiff to attach and enroll the chattels of the deceased, found upon the lay fief, to the value of that debt, at the sight of law worthy men, provided always that nothing whatever be thence removed until the debt which is evident shall be fully paid to us.
I was given letters patent, empowering us to act as one of His Majesty's Fleet in certain matters.
Maximilian I, Emperor of Germany and King of the Romans, by royal letters patent which he signed at Brussels on 6 November, 1486, bestowed upon Fr.