noun pl. graf·fi·ti (-tē)
Origin: , diminutive of graffio, a scratching, scribble
Origin: , probably from graffiare, to scratch, scribble
Origin: , probably from Vulgar Latin *graphiāre, to write with a stylus
Origin: , from Latin graphium, stylus
Origin: , from Greek grapheion, graphion
Origin: , from graphein, to write; see gerbh- in Indo-European roots. Usage Note: The word graffiti is a plural noun in Italian. In English graffiti is far more common than the singular form graffito and is mainly used as a singular noun in much the same way data is. When the reference is to a particular inscription (as in There was a bold graffiti on the wall), the form graffito would be etymologically correct but might strike some readers as pedantic outside an archaeological context. There is no substitute for the singular use of graffiti when the word is used as a mass noun to refer to inscriptions in general or to the related social phenomenon. The sentence Graffiti is a major problem for the Transit Authority Police cannot be reworded Graffito is … (since graffito can refer only to a particular inscription) or Graffiti are … (which suggests that the police problem involves only the physical marks and not the larger issue of vandalism). In such contexts, the use of graffiti as a singular is justified by both utility and widespread precedent.
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