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[ih-pis-uh l] /ɪˈpɪs əl/
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.
Origin of epistle
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for epistle
  • The entire proceedings are disclosed in this epistle.
  • Chris sends an e-mail message, but does not reveal what was in that furious epistle.
  • So, in one carefully constructed epistle she can smell a divorce.
  • What first startled me was the poet's dedicatory epistle.
  • It is true that this epistle did not contain language expressly waiving the lien.
  • The authenticity of this epistle is still in widespread dispute.
  • This epistle is also the site of her explanation for writing in verse.
  • Following the epistle, the king knelt before the altar, where he was first given a sword.
British Dictionary definitions for epistle


a letter, esp one that is long, formal, or didactic
a literary work in letter form, esp a dedicatory verse letter of a type originated by Horace
Word Origin
Old English epistol, via Latin from Greek epistolē, from epistellein to send to, from stellein to prepare, send


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

Old English epistol, from Old French epistle, epistre (Modern French épitre), from Latin epistola "letter," from Greek epistole "message, letter, command, commission," whether verbal or in writing, from epistellein "send to," from epi "to" (see epi-) + stellein in its secondary sense of "to dispatch, send" from PIE *stel-yo-, suffixed form of root *stel- "to put, stand," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place (see stall (n.1)).

Also acquired in Old English directly from Latin 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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