early 15c., "book-learning," from Latin literatura/litteratura "learning, a writing, grammar," originally "writing formed with letters," from litera/littera "alphabetic letter" also "an epistle, writing, document; literature, great books; science, learning" (see letter (n.1)). In English originally "book learning" (in which sense it replaced Old English boccræft); the meaning "activity of a writer, the profession of a literary writer" is first attested 1779 in Johnson's "Lives of the English Poets;" that of "literary productions as a whole, body of writings from a period or people" is first recorded 1812.
Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. [Ezra Pound, "ABC of Reading"]
Meaning "the whole of the writing on a particular subject" is by 1860; sense of "printed matter generally" is from 1895. The Latin word also is the source of Spanish literatura, Italian letteratura, German Literatur.
"the name of the letter Z in the alphabet," c. 1400, probably from Old French zede, from Late Latin zeta, from Greek zēta, from Hebrew zayin, letter name, literally "weapon;" so called in reference to the shape of this letter in ancient Hebrew. U.S. pronunciation zee is first attested 1670s. Other dialectal names for the letter are izzard, ezod, uzzard, and zod.
"a short letter, note," 1776, short for chitty (1690s), from Mahrati (Hindi) chitthi "letter, note, memorandum," from Sanskrit chitra-s "distinctively marked" (see cheetah).