Word of the Day: Amanuensis

This word I found on page 61 of “Murder in Grub Street” by Bruce Alexander. It appears to be the second in a series of Sir John Fielding mysteries. I have read one other and enjoyed it. This one is as good or better, though with denser story and a more involved writing style.

Amanuensis… From the context I would assume that it meant a person who writes things down, rather like a scribe or a scrivener. Not one who makes up what should be written, like a poet or a novelist (found a great poem on that), but who writes, like taking dictation.

I looked it up and found it to have been the word of the day at Dictionary.com in April of 2005.

amanuensis \uh-man-yoo-EN-sis\, noun:
A person employed to take dictation or to copy manuscripts.

The chore of actually writing the words in the end fell to a hand-picked amanuensis.
— Austin Baer, “River of Desire”, Atlantic, October 1996

On this blue day, I want to be
nothing more than an amanuensis
to the birds, transcribing all the bits
and snatches of song riding in on the wind.
— Barbara Crooker, “Transcription (Poem)”, Midwest Quarterly, March 22, 2003

When it comes to literature, the French count the largest number of Nobel Prizes; their authors include one who wrote a whole book without using the letter ‘e’ and another who, suffering from ‘locked-in syndrome’ after a severe stroke, dictated a memoir by blinking his eye as an amanuensis read through the alphabet.
— Jonathan Fenby, France on the Brink

Amanuensis comes from Latin, from the phrase (servus) a manu, “slave with handwriting duties,” from a, ab, “by” + manu, from manus, “hand.”

Note: France on the Brink seems to have been published in 2000 and re-released in 2002. I don’t know why the dictionary.com did not give the date reference for that work, when it did for the other two.

So now, if I can remember how to spell the thing, I have learned a new word.

Additional note: The version of the mystery novel I read was published in November 1996, with the original hardcover having a copyright date of 1995.