New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > A > Acrostic

Acrostic

(Akros stichos, "at the end of a verse".)

A poem the initial or final letters (syllables or words) of whose verses form certain words or sentences. Its invention is attributed to Epicharmus. The most remarkable example of such a poem is attributed by Lactantius and Eusebius to the Erythræan sibyl, the initial letters forming the words Iesous Christos Theou houios soter (stauros), "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour (cross)". Omitting the doubtful parenthesis, these words form a minor acrostic: Ichthys, fish, the mystical symbol of our Lord. The acrostic is supposed to have been quite popular among the early Christians. In a wider sense the name acrostic is applied to alphabetical or "abecedarian" poems. In this kind of poetry the successive verses or stanzas begin with the successive letters of the alphabet. We see this exemplified is Psalms 110, 111, 118; Proverbs 31:10-31; Lamentations 1, 2, 3, 4; and in a less regular manner, in Psalms 9, 24, 36, 144; Ecclesiasticus 51:18-38. (See HEBREW POETRY, PARALLELISM, PSALMS).

Sources

LECLERCQ in Dict. d'achéol. chrét. et de lit. (Paris, 1903); VIGOUROUX in Dict. de la bible, s.v. Alphabétique (Poème) (Paris, 1895).

About this page

APA citation. Maas, A. (1907). Acrostic. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01111a.htm

MLA citation. Maas, Anthony. "Acrostic." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01111a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas J. Bress.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2009 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

CONTACT US