dead letter

Idioms & Phrases

dead letter

  1. An unclaimed or undelivered letter that is eventually destroyed or returned to the sender. For example, She moved without leaving a forwarding address, so her mail ended up in the dead letter office. [c. 1700]

  2. A statute or directive that is still valid but in practice is not enforced. For example, The blue laws here are a dead letter; all the stores open on Sundays and holidays. [Second half of 1600s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Explore Dictionary.com
Previous Definition: dead in the water
Next Definition: dead loss
Words Near: dead letter
More from Thesaurus.com
Synonyms and Antonyms for dead letter
More from Reference.com
Search for articles containing dead letter
More from Dictionary.com Translator
Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature