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demotic, n. and adj.

Forms:  also with capital initial.(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: A borrowing from Greek. Etymon: Greek δημοτικός.
Etymology: < ancient Greek δημοτικός of or for the people, designating a simplified, cursive form of ancient Egyptian script, popular, common, democratic < δημότης  demot n.   + -ικός  -ic suffix.
In senses B. 1b   and A. 2   after modern Greek δημοτικός (adjective), δημοτική (noun, short for δημοτική γλῶσση   vernacular language); compare katharevousa n.
 A. n.

 1. A simplified, cursive form of ancient Egyptian script; the form of the ancient Egyptian language written in this script. See sense B. 1a.

1782   T. Pownall Treat. Study Antiq. 208   The writing for common business (the demotic, as Herodotus calls it).
1823   Eclectic Rev. Dec. 492   The reading of the hieroglyphics begins at that end of the inscription towards which the heads of the animals are turned: the demotic is always read from right to left.
1896   Academy 12 Sept. 185/2   Demotic is naturally left out of the account, as well as the dead languages of the base epochs.
1977   K. Katzner Langs. of World (U.K. ed.) ii. 161   The Coptic alphabet consists of thirty-two letters, twenty-five borrowed from the Greek, and seven from Demotic, a later simplified form of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
2003   Independent 24 July (Review section) 2/4   The stone was..also in demotic—the everyday language of the time.

1782—2003(Hide quotations)


 2. The form of modern Greek used in everyday speech and writing. See sense B. 1b. Contrasted with katharevousa n.

1901   Rep. Commissioner Educ. 1899–1900 (Washington) II. 1310   This real and dialectic demotic of the modern Greeks appeared when writers no longer thought of making their works presentable to the Byzantine Empire in its entirety.
1927   H. Nicolson Some People iii. 76   And from the bridge the second officer Shouts demotic to the Company's agent.
1964   Language 40 274   Here we encounter katharevusa clusters..which vary with normal demotic.
2004   C. Tyler in Slightly Foxed Spring 74   Kazantzakis wrote not in the classicized formal Greek of the Establishment, but—and this was a political act—in demotic, the colourful, flexible and metaphorical language of the street.

1901—2004(Hide quotations)


 3. Ordinary colloquial speech; the everyday language of ordinary people.

1917   C. P. Keith Chrons. Pennsylvania II. xvii. 548   Besides this [sc. Pennsylvania Dutch], which we may call their Demotic, the inhabitants have used, at least to the extent of reading, what Luther made the literary language of Germany.
1964   J. T. Pring in D. Abercrombie et al. Daniel Jones 357   Now it is the partisans of demotic who are to the fore; and demotic has become the language of primary education.
1970   C. P. Snow Last Things 7   At that stage, he had a knack of speaking what he thought of as American demotic.
1990   Poetry Rev. Spring 78/1   It must be just as well that you in your small culture corner and I in mine should regularly have our toffee noses rubbed in late-twentieth-century demotic.
2006   Independent 1 July 37/4   What television does best of all is serious talk, though you wouldn't expect BBC executives, with their devotion to the tunelessness of demotic, to agree with that.

1917—2006(Hide quotations)

 B. adj.

 a. Designating a simplified, cursive form of ancient Egyptian script, or the form of the ancient Egyptian language written in this script; written in or belonging to this script or language. Contrasted with hieratic (hieratic adj. 1a) and hieroglyphic (hieroglyphic adj. 1). Now usually with capital initial.The script is first known from c650 b.c. Greek became the principal language of administration in the Ptolemaic period, and Demotic became increasingly rare from the Roman conquest (30 b.c.) onwards, with the last known example in the 5th cent.

1822   Q. Rev. 28 189   To prove, that neither the hieratic or sacerdotal, nor the demotic or vulgar, writing is alphabetic.
1850   W. E. Gladstone Homer II. ii. 165   Some other country having, like Egypt, an hieratic and also a demotic tongue.
1880   A. H. Sayce in Nature 19 Feb. 380/1   The only change undergone by Egyptian writing was the invention of a running-hand, which in its earlier and simpler form is called hieratic, and in its later form demotic.
1922   Jrnl. Egyptian Archaeol. 8 277   ‘Power of God’ appears both in singular and plural as a kind of ‘genius’ in demotic literature.
1994   J. Edwards Multilingualism (1995) 231   American work on dictionaries of the Assyrian, Sumerian, Demotic Egyptian, Hittite and other languages is clearly worthy and scholarly.
2003   Jrnl. Amer. Res. Center in Egypt 40 69   An unusual example..because of its Asyut provenance, its three Demotic inscriptions, and the style and iconography of its painted decoration.

1822—2003(Hide quotations)


 b. Designating the form of modern Greek used in everyday speech and writing; written in or belonging to this form of Greek. Cf. katharevousa n.

1860   Quaritch's Catal. 164   Plates 1-14 of Demotic Inscriptions, and 8 plates on 4 leaves of an apparently Demotic Greek Vocabulary.
1927   H. Nicolson Some People vii. 172   He slowly approached Essad Pasha and addressed him in demotic Greek.
1998   A. Dalby Dict. Langs. 232/1   It is used in some technical writing, but not in literature, which is written in dhimotiké, the demotic or ‘popular’ tongue.

1860—1998(Hide quotations)


 c. Designating the kind of language used by ordinary people; written in or belonging to this kind of language; vernacular; colloquial.

1872   O. W. Holmes Poet at Breakfast-table in Atlantic Monthly Aug. 227/2   The one..does what in demotic phrase is called the ‘sarsing’.
1922   T. S. Eliot Waste Land 212   Mr Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant..Asked me in demotic French To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel.
1961   Listener 30 Mar. 573/3   In fact advertising has, of necessity, to use simple, forceful, easily understandable words—‘demotic’ language, as Mr Whitehead might call it.
1991   Times Educ. Suppl. 15 Feb. 29/2   A qualm about demotic West Indian poetry.
2008   N.Y. Rev. Bks. 20 Mar. 30/4   Armitage's demotic flashes come to strobe the mind's eye. ‘They upped and left’, ‘chunters the knight’..‘a heck of a lick’, [etc.].

1872—2008(Hide quotations)


 2. gen. Of, relating to, or characteristic of ordinary people; intended for or suited to the understanding or taste of ordinary people. Frequently mildly depreciative. Cf. popular adj. 4a.

1831   S. Smith Mr Dyson's Speech on Reform 19   Demotic habits will be more common in a country where the rich are forced to court the poor for political power.
1881   Times 26 Apr. 4/1   There is nothing in the position that the demotic mind can apprehend.
1958   Times Lit. Suppl. 17 Jan. 30/3   Mr Amis's attitudes as a writer are not so demotic as his choice of terms seems to pretend. There is a suggestion of linguistic slumming, tweedy slanginess.
1967   R. Mabey Class 110   Not only did ITV develop the popular touch—it nurtured those diverse speech tones and accents which belonged naturally to the more demotic channel.
1990   Classic CD July 53/2   It may sound aristocratically stately or jauntily demotic.
2009   Art Q. Spring 41/2   The more demotic attractions of prom, pier and shopping streets.

1831—2009(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, March 2014).

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