The term literature derives from a Latin term "littera" which is equivalent to the Greek "grammata". Both these words literally mean "letters" but figuratively refer to the sort of works one studied when learning to read and write. The French equivalent would be "belles lettres". In antiquity, not all written texts counted as "literature". The popular fiction of the period generally did not fall under this rubric, but the more important works of poetry, drama, history, oratory and philosophy were included. In English, in the twentieth century, the term literature was mainly restricted to imaginative works in the genres of poetry, fiction, and drama, but with the growth of "creative non-fiction": as a genre, the 21st century may be returning to the earlier model.
The definition of literature is written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.