frontispiece

\ \ [16] The final syllable of frontispiece has no etymological connection with piece. It comes from *spic-, a root denoting ‘see’ which is also represented in conspicuous and spectator. Here, as in the related auspices, its particular application is ‘divination by observation’. Added to Latin frōnsforehead’ it produced late Latin frontispicium, which originally meant ‘judgment of character through interpretation of facial features’. Gradually it weakened semantically through ‘face’ to simply ‘front part’, and when English first acquired it, it was used for the ‘principal façade of a building’ (‘an indiscreet builder, who preferreth the care of his frontispiece before the maine foundation’, Richard Brathwait, English Gentleman 1630).
\ \ By the 17th century, however, the word’s modern meaning ‘illustration facing the title page’ was becoming established. (Spellings based on an erroneous association with piece, incidentally, occur as early as the 16th century.)
\ \ Cf.AUSPICES, CONSPICUOUS, FRONT, INSPECT, SPECTATOR, SPY

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Frontispiece — Fron tis*piece, n. [F. frontispice, LL. frontispicium beginning, front of a church, fr. L. frons front + spicere, specere, to look at, view: cf. It. frontispizio. See {Front} and {Spy}.] The part which first meets the eye; as: (a) (Arch.) The… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • frontispiece — 1590s, decorated entrance of a building, from M.Fr. frontispice, probably from It. frontespizio and L.L. frontispicium facade, originally a view of the forehead, judgment of character through facial features, from L. frons (gen. frontis) forehead …   Etymology dictionary

  • frontispiece — ► NOUN ▪ an illustration facing the title page of a book. ORIGIN Latin frontispicium facade …   English terms dictionary

  • frontispiece — [frunt′is pēs΄] n. [OFr < LL frontispicium, front of a church, front view < L frons, FRONT1 + specere, to look: see SPY] 1. Obs. the first page, esp. the title page, of a book 2. an illustration facing the title page of a book 3. Archit …   English World dictionary

  • Frontispiece — *In architecture, a frontispiece constitutes the elements that frame and decorate the main, or front, door to a building; especially when the main entrance is the chief face of the building, rather than being kept behind columns or a portico. *A… …   Wikipedia

  • frontispiece — [16] The final syllable of frontispiece has no etymological connection with piece. It comes from *spic , a root denoting ‘see’ which is also represented in conspicuous and spectator. Here, as in the related auspices, its particular application is …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • frontispiece — UK [ˈfrʌntɪsˌpiːs] / US [ˈfrʌntɪsˌpɪs] noun [countable] Word forms frontispiece : singular frontispiece plural frontispieces a picture at the beginning of a book on the page opposite the one with the title on it …   English dictionary

  • frontispiece — [[t]frʌ̱ntɪspiːs[/t]] frontispieces N COUNT: usu sing The frontispiece of a book is a picture at the beginning, opposite the page with the title on …   English dictionary

  • frontispiece — noun Etymology: Middle French frontispice, from Late Latin frontispicium facade, from Latin front , frons + i + specere to look at more at spy Date: circa 1598 1. a. the principal front of a building b. a decorated pediment over a portico or… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • frontispiece — /frun tis pees , fron /, n. 1. an illustrated leaf preceding the title page of a book. 2. Archit. a façade, or a part or feature of a façade, often highlighted by ornamentation. [1590 1600; alter. (conformed to PIECE) of earlier frontispice < F < …   Universalium

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