AskDefine | Define amanuensis

Dictionary Definition

amanuensis n : someone skilled in the transcription of speech (especially dictation) [syn: stenographer, shorthand typist] [also: amanuenses (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



From amanuensis


  • Hyphenation: amanu•en•sis


one employed to take dictation
a clerk, secretary or stenographer
  • German: Schreiber, Schreiberin, Sekretär, Sekretärin



amanuensis (plural amanuenses)
  1. secretary, clerk

Extensive Definition

Amanuensis [ipa: əˌmænjuˈɛnsɪs] is a Latin word adopted in various languages, including English, for certain persons performing a function by hand, either writing down the words of another or performing manual labour. The term is derived from a Latin expression which may be literally translated as "manual labourer".

Origin and secretarial uses

The word originated in ancient Rome, for a slave at his master's personal service 'within hand reach', performing any command; later it was specifically applied to an intimately trusted servant (often a freedman) acting as a personal secretary.
A similar semantic evolution occurred at the French royal court, where the secrétaire de la main du roi, originally a lowly clerk specializing in producing (technically forging, but on royal command) the Sovereign's signature on more documents than he cared to put his pen to, developed into the secrétaires d'état, the first permanent portfolio ministers, to which the British Secretaries of State would be the counterpart.
The term is often used interchangeably with secretary or scribe.

Academic uses

It is also used in a specific sense in some academic contexts, for instance when an injured or disabled person is helped by an amanuensis at a written examination.
In the Netherlands it refers to a (technically schooled) physics laboratory assistant. Someone who prepares and assists with tests and who maintains the instruments. When employed as such in a school environment s/he will have the title of "TOA" Technical Teaching Assistant
In Norway, amanuensis is an academic rank corresponding to that of assistant professor in the United States. Førsteamanuensis (Norwegian for "first amanuensis") is the equivalent of associate professor.
In Sweden, amanuens is used to denote roughly a teaching assistant.
The term is used to describe one who assists an organist during a performance, by drawing and retiring stops, and by turning pages.

Laborial uses

On the other hand, certain employers use the term for (generally unskilled) manual labourers at the bottom of the hierarchy, e.g. as factotum.

Sources and references

  • Bokmålsordboken (official Norwegian language dictionary)
  • Pauly-Wissowa (Encyclopaedia on classical antiquity, in German)
  • Larousse (General Encyclopaedia in French)
  • Aland, Kurt. “The Problem of Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Christian Literature of the First Two Centuries.” Journal of Theological Studies 12 (1961): 39-49.
  • Bahr, Gordon J. “Paul and Letter Writing in the First Century.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 28 (1966): 465-77. idem, “The Subscriptions in the Pauline Letters.” Journal of Biblical Literature 2 (1968): 27-41.
  • Bauckham, Richard J. “Pseudo-Apostolic Letters.” Journal of Biblical Literature 107 (1988): 469-94.
  • Carson, D.A. “Pseudonymity and Pseudepigraphy.” Dictionary of New Testament Background. Eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000. 857-64.
  • Cousar, Charles B. The Letters of Paul. Interpreting Biblical Texts. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.
  • Deissmann, G. Adolf. Bible Studies. Trans. Alexander Grieve. 1901. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1988.
  • Doty, William G. Letters in Primitive Christianity. Guides to Biblical Scholarship. New Testament. Ed. Dan O. Via, Jr. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.
  • Gamble, Harry Y. “Amanuensis.” Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 1. Ed. David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
  • Haines-Eitzen, Kim. “‘Girls Trained in Beautiful Writing’: Female Scribes in Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 6.4 (1998): 629-46.
  • Longenecker, Richard N. “Ancient Amanuenses and the Pauline Epistles.” New Dimensions in New Testament Study. Eds. Richard N. Longenecker and Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974. 281-97. idem, “On the Form, Function, and Authority of the New Testament Letters.” Scripture and Truth. Eds. D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983. 101-14.
  • Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995.
  • Richards, E. Randolph. The Secretary in the Letters of Paul. Tübingen: Mohr, 1991. idem, “The Codex and the Early Collection of Paul’s Letters.” Bulletin for Bulletin Research 8 (1998): 151-66. idem, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004.
  • Robson, E. Iliff. “Composition and Dictation in New Testament Books.” Journal of Theological Studies 18 (1917): 288-301.
  • Stowers, Stanley K. Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity. Library of Early Christianity. Vol. 8. Ed. Wayne A. Meeks. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1989.
  • Wall, Robert W. “Introduction to Epistolary Literature.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Vol. 10. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002. 369-91.
amanuensis in Danish: Amanuensis
amanuensis in Dutch: Amanuensis
amanuensis in Norwegian: Amanuensis
amanuensis in Swedish: Amanuens

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Federal, accountant, agent, archivist, baggage agent, bookkeeper, business agent, calligrapher, chirographer, claim agent, clerk, commercial agent, commission agent, consignee, copier, copyist, customer agent, documentalist, dupe, engraver, factor, fed, federal agent, filing clerk, freight agent, functionary, general agent, implement, ink spiller, inkslinger, instrument, insurance agent, land agent, law agent, letterer, librarian, literary agent, loan agent, marker, news agent, notary, notary public, official, parliamentary agent, passenger agent, pen, pencil driver, penman, penner, press agent, prothonotary, puppet, purchasing agent, real estate agent, record clerk, recorder, recording secretary, recordist, register, registrar, sales agent, scorekeeper, scorer, scribbler, scribe, scrivener, secretary, special agent, station agent, stenographer, steward, stonecutter, theatrical agent, ticket agent, timekeeper, tool, transcriber, travel agent, walking delegate, word-slinger, writer
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