A Dictionary of the English Language
                        A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson
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Apostrophe

View Scan · View Transcription · from page 144

View Scan · View Transcription · from page 144

Apo'strophe. n.s. [ἀποστροφή, from ἀπὸ, from, and στρέφω, to turn.]

  1. In rhetorick, a diversion of speech to another person, than the speech appointed did intend or require; or it is a turning of the speech from one person to another, many times abruptly. A figure when we break off the course of our speech, and speak to some new person, present or absent, as to the people or witnesses, when it was before directed to the judges, or opponent. This diversion or speech is made many ways. 1. To God. 2. To angels. 3. To men in their several ranks, whether absent or present, dead or alive. 4. To the adversary. 5. To the heavenly bodies and meteors. 6. To the earth and things in it. 7. To the sea and things in it. 8. To beasts, birds, and fishes. 9. To inanimate things. Smith's Rhetorick.

  2. In grammar, the contraction of a word by the use of a comma; as, tho', for though; rep', for reputation.

    Many laudable attempts have been made, by abbreviating words with apostrophes; and by lopping polysyllables, leaving one or two words at most. Swift.

Sources: Smith, Edmund (7) · Swift, Jonathan (306)

Attributes: Greek (126) · Noun Substantive (1269)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "Apostrophe." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: February 1, 2014. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=14432.


  1. In the time of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary what would the phrase “to the people” mean?
    I’m especially interested in what exactly this phrase meant in the Constitution where it defined enumerated powers as those left to the states, or “to the people”.
    Thank You, David

  2. David Goodlin on February 13th, 2014 at 4:19 pm

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