An individually cast piece of type. Also: such pieces collectively; the system of printing which uses type of this kind.
Although clay movable type was in use in China from the 11th century, and metal movable type in Korea from the 13th century, the term is usually applied to the system developed for printing Western alphabets from the mid 15th century, associated especially with J. Gutenberg (1400–68). The reusability and durability of metal movable type enabled the invention of more efficient and regular multiple printing techniques than had been possible with earlier woodblock methods.
Late 18th century; earliest use found in Philip Luckombe (d. 1803), printer and writer. From movable + type.