1. Of, relating to, or occurring at the beginning; first: took the initial step toward peace.
2. Designating the first letter or letters of a word.
a. The first letter of a proper name.
b. initials The first letter of each word of a person's full name considered as a unit: stationery monogrammed with her initials.
2. The first letter of a word.
3. A large, often highly decorated letter set at the beginning of a chapter, verse, or paragraph.
tr.v. in·i·tialed, in·i·tial·ing, in·i·tials also in·i·tialled or in·i·tial·ling
To mark or sign with initials, especially for purposes of authorization or approval.
[Latin initiālis, from initium, beginning; see ei- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
(click for a larger image)initial
detail of an illuminated manuscript
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.