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abacus

[ab-uh-kuh s, uh-bak-uh s] /ˈæb ə kəs, əˈbæk əs/
noun, plural abacuses, abaci
[ab-uh-sahy, -kahy, uh-bak-ahy] /ˈæb əˌsaɪ, -ˌkaɪ, əˈbæk aɪ/ (Show IPA)
1.
a device for making arithmetic calculations, consisting of a frame set with rods on which balls or beads are moved.
2.
Architecture. a slab forming the top of the capital of a column.
Origin of abacus
1350-1400
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin: board, counting board, re-formed < Greek ábax
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for abacus
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Whenever the dimensions of the column were sufficiently great the stone beams which met upon the die or abacus had oblique joints.

  • This, as pictured in the text, is the common Gerbert abacus.

    The Hindu-Arabic Numerals David Eugene Smith
  • Now look under the abacus of this capital; you will find the stone hollowed out wonderfully; and also in this arch-mould.

    A Laodicean Thomas Hardy
  • The abacus has a width equivalent to the thickness of the bottom of a column.

  • The more slender the shaft, the greater, proportionally, may be the projection of the abacus.

  • The abacus is the crowning member of the capital, as the capital is of the column.

    History of Ancient Art Franz von Reber
  • We worked, not with slate and pencil, but with a rectangular wooden frame set with beads, resembling an abacus.

    A Japanese Boy Shigemi Shiukichi
  • Though the month was February below it was May in the abacus of the column.

    Two on a Tower Thomas Hardy
British Dictionary definitions for abacus

abacus

/ˈæbəkəs/
noun (pl) -ci (-ˌsaɪ), -cuses
1.
a counting device that consists of a frame holding rods on which a specific number of beads are free to move. Each rod designates a given denomination, such as units, tens, hundreds, etc, in the decimal system, and each bead represents a digit or a specific number of digits
2.
(architect) the flat upper part of the capital of a column
Word Origin
C16: from Latin, from Greek abax board covered with sand for tracing calculations, from Hebrew ābhāq dust
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for abacus
n.

late 14c., "sand table for drawing, calculating, etc.," from Latin abacus, from Greek abax (genitive abakos) "counting table," from Hebrew abaq "dust," from root a-b-q "to fly off." Originally a drawing board covered with dust or sand that could be written on to do mathematical equations. Specific reference to a counting frame is 17c. or later.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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