Amanuensis

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Origin

Latin, from (servus) a manu slave with secretarial duties

Definitions

Description

Amanuensis (pronounced /əˌmænjuːˈɛnsɪs/) 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

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, at 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.

See also