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Leger vs. Ledger Lines: Which is Correct?

David Raleigh Arnold

The “leger” in “leger” line does not come from the English “ledger”, meaning a book that was supposed to stay at a certain location, such as a valuable Bible, but rather from the French word “leger”, meaning “light” or “slight”. Today leger lines are often thicker than staff lines to distinguish them, because the leger lines are cut short. At one time, in French publications, the leger lines were extended, sometimes from one side of the page to the other. Extended leger lines were lighter than staff lines and short leger lines were slighter in any case. The origin of “leger lines” could not be more clear.

It cannot be shown that “leger” is a variant spelling of “ledger” or vice versa. Furthermore, “leger” is not in use as a spelling for a book of accounts. The conclusion, until proven otherwise, must be that “leger” and “ledger” are two completely different words and that therefore “leger line” is correct and “ledger line” is a use of the wrong word and not a variant spelling.

The writers of dictionaries should do better with researching foreign origins of words.

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