n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
Drawings or inscriptions made on a wall or other surface, usually without permission and so as to be seen by the public.
[Italian, pl. of graffito; see GRAFFITO.]
Usage Note: The word graffiti is a plural noun in Italian. In English graffiti is far more common than the singular form graffito and is mainly used as a singular noun in much the same way data is. When the reference is to a particular inscription (as in There was a bold graffiti on the wall), the form graffito would be etymologically correct but might strike some readers as pedantic outside an archaeological context. There is no substitute for the singular use of graffiti when the word is used as a mass noun to refer to inscriptions in general or to the related social phenomenon: Graffiti is a major problem for the Transit Authority Police.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.