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An acrostic is a poem or other word composition in which the first letter (or syllable, or word) of each new line (or paragraph, or other recurring feature in the text) spells out a word, message or the alphabet. The term comes from the French acrostiche from post-classical Latin acrostichis, from Koine Greek ἀκροστιχίς, from Ancient Greek ἄκρος "highest, topmost" and στίχος "verse". As a form of constrained writing, an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aid memory retrieval. When the last letter of each new line (or other recurring feature) forms a word it is called a telestich; the combination of an acrostic and a telestich in the same composition is called a double acrostic (e.g. the first-century Latin Sator Square).
Acrostics are common in medieval literature, where they usually serve to highlight the name of the poet or his patron, or to make a prayer to a saint. They are most frequent in verse works but can also appear in prose. The Middle High German poet Rudolf von Ems for example opens all his great works with an acrostic of his name, and his world chronicle marks the beginning of each age with an acrostic of the key figure (Moses, David, etc.). In chronicles, acrostics are common in German and English but rare in other languages.