letter


letter
letter, epistle, missive, note, message, dispatch, report, memorandum are comparable when they mean a communication sent or transmitted as distinct from one conveyed directly from source to recipient (as by oral utterance).
Letter is the ordinary term for a written, typed, or printed communication sent by one person or group to another most often by mail; the term carries no implications about the nature of the communication and no hint as to whether it deals with personal or business matters or with affairs of public concern
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she received a letter from her husband yesterday

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all letters sent out from the belligerent countries are censored

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he addressed an open letter (i.e., one given out for publication) to his constituents

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Epistle applies especially to a letter intended to be made public (as one of the scriptural letters of advice and counsel attributed to the Apostles)
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the First Epistle to Timothy

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the Second Epistle to the Corinthians

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or to a composition in prose or poetry taking the form of an open letter
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Pope's "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot"

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As applied to a private letter, epistle is an overformal word typically used with some degree of humorous or ironic implication
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forced to defend his praise of James Jones's Eternity against a barrage of indignant epistlesGeismar

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the amiable epistle of a son-in-law anxious to be a little more than correct— Bennett

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Missive, too, is a somewhat formal term and as applied to a personal letter may be somewhat ironic or whimsical in implication
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many of their missives were illiterate, and the more violent of them were unsigned— Merriman

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Note in general use applies to a letter that is brief and pointed, whether it is formal or informal
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send a note of condolence

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write a note of acceptance

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In diplomatic usage note is applied to a formal communication sent by one government to another
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the Porte . . . acknowledged the validity of the Latin claims in a formal noteKinglake

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Message differs from the preceding terms in being applicable not only to a written, typed, or printed communication but to one that is orally transmitted (as over the telephone or by a messenger or servant) or is telegraphed, cabled, or radioed
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sent a message to his mother that he had been called out of town

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but his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us— Lk 19:14

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In official and especially governmental use message applies to a formal communication from the head of a state (as one sent by the president of the United States to Congress or by a governor to the law-making body of his state)
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President Wilson broke tradition by delivering his messages to Congress personally

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Dispatch applies to a usually brief message that is sent posthaste (as by telegraph, cable, or radiotelegraph). In more technical use dispatch applies to such messages sent by an authorized correspondent to a newspaper or news association; it also specifically applies to an official message, often one in cipher, sent by or to a government to or by a diplomatic, military, or naval officer in its service.
Report (see also ACCOUNT 2) applies particularly to a communication sent by an official (as a diplomat) to his own government. The term is also applicable to an official communication giving a detailed statement of facts, proceedings, or recommendations
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the committee on foreign affairs is ready to make a report to Congress

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the school sends a monthly report of each student's work to his parents

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Memorandum is used chiefly in business for an informal communication sent to an executive or employee, conveying instructions or directions.

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

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  • letter — let‧ter [ˈletə ǁ ər] noun [countable] 1. a written or printed message that is usually put in an envelope and sent by mail: • Please sign the letter and mail it back within two weeks. alloˈcation ˌletter also alˈlotment ˌletter FINANCE a letter… …   Financial and business terms

  • letter — let·ter n 1: a direct written statement addressed to an individual or organization; broadly: an official communication see also counterletter determination letter: a letter from an administrative agency (as the Internal Revenue Service) usu. in… …   Law 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… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Letter — and similar can mean: *Letter (alphabet), a grapheme, part of an alphabet, abjad, abugida, or syllabary *Letter (message), correspondence, a written message *Letter (paper size), the letter size paper * Letters can also mean literature, as in… …   Wikipedia

  • letter — letter1 [let′ər] n. [ME lettre < OFr < L littera, letter of the alphabet, (in pl.) a letter, epistle] 1. a written or printed symbol employed to represent a speech sound or sounds; character in an alphabet: in some languages, as English,… …   English World dictionary

  • letter — ► NOUN 1) a character representing one or more of the sounds used in speech; any of the symbols of an alphabet. 2) a written, typed, or printed communication, sent by post or messenger. 3) the precise terms of a statement or requirement. 4)… …   English terms dictionary

  • Letter — Sf erw. fach. (17. Jh.) Entlehnung. In Anlehnung an frz. lettre umgebildet aus älterem Litter, das in mittelhochdeutscher Zeit aus l. littera Buchstabe entlehnt ist (frz. lettre ist dessen lautgerechter Nachfolger). Die Herkunft des lateinischen… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • letter — [n1] symbol of an alphabet ABCs*, alphabet, cap, capital, character, majuscule, minuscule, rune, sign, small letter, type, uncial; concept 284 Ant. number letter [n2] written communication acknowledgment, answer, billet, dispatch, epistle, junk… …   New thesaurus

  • letter — According to the Private Express Statutes, a message directed to a specific person or an address and recorded in or on a tangible object. Also a shortened way to refer to letter size mail …   Glossary of postal terms

  • Letter — Let ter, n. [From {Let} to hinder.] One who retards or hinders. [Archaic.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English