boustrophedon


Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for November 9, 2018 is:

boustrophedon • \boo-struh-FEE-dahn\  • noun

: the writing of alternate lines in opposite directions (as from left to right and from right to left)

Examples:

The archaeologist noticed that the text on the tablet was written in boustrophedon.

“A few days later the same Captain Pasha gave them a gift of an ancient boustrophedon inscription which had been at the door of a Greek chapel; many generations of peasants had rubbed against it, believing it relieved their rheumatism.” — Sally Emerson, Independent on Sunday (London), 13 May 2001

Did you know?

Before the standardization of writing from left to right, ancient Greek inscribers once used a style called boustrophedon, a word meaning literally “turning like oxen in plowing.” When they came to the end of a line, the ancient Greeks simply started the next line immediately below the last letter, writing the letters and words in the opposite direction, and thus following the analogy of oxen plowing left to right, then right to left. Reverse boustrophedon writing has also been found in which the inscribers turned the document 180 degrees before starting a new line so that the words are always read left to right with every half turn. The word boustrophedon itself is formed from the Greek word for the ox or cow, bous, and the verb strephein, which means “to turn.”

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