a letter, especially a formal or didactic one; written communication.
(usually initial capital letter) one of the apostolic letters in the new testament.
(often initial capital letter) an extract, usually from one of the Epistles of the New Testament, forming part of the Eucharistic service in certain churches.

before 900; Middle English; Old English epistol < Latin epistula, epistola < Greek epistolḗ message, letter, equivalent to epi- epi- + stol- (variant stem of stéllein to send) + noun suffix

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World English Dictionary
epistle (ɪˈpɪsəl)
1.  a letter, esp one that is long, formal, or didactic
2.  a literary work in letter form, esp a dedicatory verse letter of a type originated by Horace
[Old English epistol, via Latin from Greek epistolē, from epistellein to send to, from stellein to prepare, send]

Epistle (ɪˈpɪsəl)
1.  New Testament any of the apostolic letters of Saints Paul, Peter, James, Jude, or John
2.  a reading from one of the Epistles, forming part of the Eucharistic service in many Christian Churches

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E., from O.Fr. epistle, from L. epistola "letter," from Gk. epistole "message, letter," from epistellein "send to," from epi- "to" + stellein "send." Also acquired in O.E. directly from L. as pistol. Specific sense of "letter from an apostle forming part of canonical scripture" is c.1200.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


a composition in prose or poetry written in the form of a letter to a particular person or group

Learn more about epistle with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The entire proceedings are disclosed in this epistle.
Chris sends an e-mail message, but does not reveal what was in that furious
So, in one carefully constructed epistle she can smell a divorce.
What first startled me was the poet's dedicatory epistle.
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