"ink-impression printing from designs, etc., cut into stone," 1813, from German Lithographie (c. 1804), coined from litho- "stone" + -graphie (see -graphy), which here apparently draws its sense from the Greek verb graphein "to draw, represent by lines" rather than the abstract noun ending -graphia "description of" (in writing), used to form names of descriptive sciences. So called because the original printing surfaces were of stone. The process was said to have been invented c.1796 by Alois Senefelder (1771-1833) of Munich. The word had been used earlier in English in the sense "description of stones or rocks" (1708). Another earlier sense, now also obsolete, was "art of engraving on precious stones" (1730). Related: Lithographer; lithographic.
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