Definition of 'tract'

s.v. 'tract'

tract (trækt), n.1 Also 5-6 tracte.

[App. abbreviated from L. tract(tus tractate; not in any other lang.]

I. 1. Literary treatment or discussion. Obs. rare.

In some instances difficult to separate from sense 2.

1659 Bp. Walton Consid. Considered 14 They do assert and prove the plain contrary, and that not obiter, or by the by, but ex professo, in full tracts.

2. a. A book or written work treating of some particular topic; a treatise; a written or printed discourse or dissertation: = tractate n. 1. Now rare in general sense.

Formerly often applied to what would now be called 'books'.

1577 Hanmer Anc. Eccl. Hist. (1663) 84 This present Tract of mine is not made for any ostentation.

1614 Raleigh Hist. World ii. (1634) 340 Palastina it selfe is but a Province, as I have noted in the beginning of this Tract.

1825 McCulloch Pol. Econ. i. 38 In the course of the seventeenth century, a more than usual number of tracts were published on commercial and economical subjects.

b. Applied to a division of a book or literary work, treating of a separate subject or branch. rare.

1662 Stillingfl. Orig. Sacr. i. iii. 3 Three books they tell us of, which Zertoost received by Revelation, or rather one book, consisting of three severall tracts, whereof the first [etc.].

3. a. In later use: A short pamphlet on some religious, political, or other topic, suitable for distribution or for purposes of propaganda.

[1762 Gentl. Mag. Nov. 545/2 This little tract affords prescriptions for the soul.]

1885 G. Meredith Diana xviii, Am I really as dull as a tract, my dear?

Mod. The British Museum library contains an immense collection of Civil War tracts.

b. Tracts for the Times: the title of a series of pamphlets on theological and ecclesiastical topics (known also as the Oxford Tracts, or simply the Tracts) started by J. H. Newman, and published at Oxford 1833-1841, (...)

c. attrib. and Comb., as (in sense 3) tract-distributing adj., distribution, -led adj., society; (in sense 3 b, with capital T) Tract divine, doctrine, man, movement, system, -writer.

1760 Pratt in J. Adams Wks. (1850) II. 97, I should be very sorry to have the Tract Society dissolved.

1806 W. L. Bowles Banwell Hill ii. 360 The tract-led Miss, Who trots to every Bethel club.

1869 W. P. Mackay Grace & Truth (1875) 43 Tract-distributors and pick-pockets.

II. 4. a. Negotiation, treating; a treaty. (Cf. tractate n. 2.)

b. Trade, traffic

[cf. Pg. trato dealing, trade]. Obs. rare.

1582 N. Lichefield tr. Castanheda's Conq. E. Ind. i. i. 3 They had beene in the Cayro, and understoode there much newes of Ormuse, and of theyr tract had with and into the Indies.

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