Can anybody tell me if there is a difference in meaning and/or usage of "a book" vs "a tome"?

So far, I found on the internet that:

  • a book is a general, versatile term
  • a tome is an unusually thick book

Is that correct?


  • 3
    Yes, it is correct. – Lambie Oct 7 '16 at 21:52
  • 1
    Tome in modern usage often connotes mild sarcasm in reference to a very long or challenging book: Our professor assigned one of Malinowski's tomes for reading in our anthro course. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 7 '16 at 22:19

Tome (n.) is an old term which is used to indicate a large, heavy book:

  • 1510s, "a single volume of a multi-volume work," from Middle French tome (16c.), from Latin tomus. Sense of "a large book" is attested from 1570s.


  • So the Lord of the Rings 3 volumes printed as one book, would be considered a tome by this definition? That's the only book I can think of that is 1 book, usually published as 3 volumes. This definition seems a bit hyper-specific. – RexxiA Jun 22 '20 at 6:04

As Merriam-Webster tells us, a tome may be:

  1. A large or scholarly book.
  2. A volume forming part of a larger work.

Thus tome is a hyponim of book. However, now tome mostly means just a very thick book, perhaps with an ironical connotation.

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