palimpsest /PAL-imp-sest/. noun or adjective. A manuscript or artwork which has been erased, scraped or washed off and overwritten, leaving traces of the original. More generally, something that has been reused or altered but bears evidence of the original. Owing to its durability (and expense), most existing written palimpsests are found on parchment or vellum manuscripts. Many texts only survive in this form. Use of the word has expanded into astronomy, medicine, archaeology and even augmented reality.
“Holmes and I sat […], he engaged with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest.” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
“All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.” (George Orwell)
“They [television reruns] are another manifestation of today’s palimpsest pop culture, in which everything is ripe for sampling and nothing stays dead.” (Time magazine)