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For as long as I can remember, I've only used the word 'delete' in a technological context. I'm fairly certain, most kids--or the generation before them--know exactly what the word means.

Did this word get much use in other literary works?

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You might try looking at Google Ngrams (books.google.com/ngrams). – zpletan Apr 2 '12 at 21:32
never heard of that Google app! Much thanks! – Marc Apr 2 '12 at 21:35
@zpletan: books.google.com/ngrams/… – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Apr 2 '12 at 21:35
Another potentially misleading ngram there. Many of the pre-computing hits come from errata, not normal usage of the word. – z7sg Ѫ Apr 2 '12 at 22:24

Etymology online offers the following:


late 15c., "destroy, eradicate," from L. deletus, pp. of delere "destroy, blot out, efface," from delevi, originally perf. tense of delinere "to daub, erase by smudging" (as of the wax on a writing table), from de- "from, away" (see de-) + linere "to smear, wipe" (see lime (1)). In English, specifically of written matter, from c.1600. Related: Deleted; deleting.

(and related)


typographer's direction to blot out a letter, from L. dele, imperative singular of delere (see delete).

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I think it was particularly used in relation to deleted text in the publishing and literary spheres before it really took off in the computing context. – FumbleFingers Apr 2 '12 at 21:59
The word delete may have been around for centuries, but I believe the expression control-alt-delete is relatively new. :^) – J.R. Apr 3 '12 at 10:23

It seems to me that the ultimate origin of the word goes back to the Greek word "deleterion" (see current English word "deleterious" the meaning of which is disastrous, poisonous, eradicating).

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Can you provide a reference for this please, just as the other answerer has indicated his source? We like to have substantiated answers rather than just answers that could be no more than mere opinion. Thanks. – TrevorD Jul 17 '13 at 23:59

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