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[pal-imp-sest] /ˈpæl ɪmpˌsɛst/
a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.
Origin of palimpsest
1655-65; < Latin palimpsēstus < Greek palímpsēstos rubbed again (pálin again + psēstós scraped, rubbed, verbid of psân to rub smooth)
Related forms
palimpsestic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for palimpsest
  • Covering its surface is an intricate palimpsest of characters and pictures, some of them dating back more than a millennium.
  • Haynes has produced a dizzying palimpsest of images and styles, in which his subject appears in the form of six different people.
  • Each year adds another layer to this palimpsest of obsessions.
  • The pebble lag above the exposure surface is a transgressive palimpsest deposit.
  • The work thus conveys the sense that viewers are looking at a palimpsest, with earlier faint traces of writing.
  • To image the palimpsest pages, the parchment is framed and placed in a stage that moves according to the raster method.
British Dictionary definitions for palimpsest


a manuscript on which two or more successive texts have been written, each one being erased to make room for the next
(of a text) written on a palimpsest
(of a document) used as a palimpsest
Word Origin
C17: from Latin palimpsestus parchment cleaned for reuse, from Greek palimpsēstos, from palin again + psēstos rubbed smooth, from psēn to scrape
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 palimpsest

"parchment from which earlier writing has been removed to clear it for new writing," 1660s, from Latin palimpsestus, from Greek palimpsestos "scraped again," from palin "again" (see palindrome) + verbal adjective of psen "to rub smooth" (of uncertain origin).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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