Saturday, April 16, 2011


Margaret wrote to ask about a word used on the cable program The Naked Archeologist. The word was epigraphy. It is composed of two Greek elements: epi-, meaning on or upon, and –graphy, writing. Epigraphy is used to designate the study of inscriptions, whether they are on coins, pottery, buildings, tombs, statues, etc.

The –graphy word part is very useful. The Oxford English Dictionary reveals that it is used in over 600 words. It indicates an area of interest that has been studied, classified, and interpreted. Let’s look at a mere sampling.

  • agrostography: the description of grasses.
  • brachygraphy: the art or practice of writing with abbreviations or with abbreviated characters.
  • cynography: a writing or treatise on dogs.
  • ethnography: the description of the morals and characteristics of man.
  • glossography: the writing of glosses or commentaries; the compiling of glossaries.
  • hagiography: the writing of the lives of saints; saints' lives as a branch of literature or legend.
  • icthyography: a description or treatise on fish.
  • loimography: the descriptive science treating of pestilential diseases.
  • museography: the systematic description of the contents of museums.
  • nomography: a treatise on law.
  • ophiography: a treatise on snakes; the scientific description of snakes.
  • paremiography: the writing or collecting of proverbs; also, : a collection or book of proverbs.
  • rhypography: the painting of distasteful or sordid subjects. Also, writing about distasteful or sordid subjects.
  • selenography: a description of the moon's surface.
  • thaumatography: a writing concerning the wonders of nature.
  • uranography: a description of heaven.
  • webliography: a list of electronic works or documents, esp. those relating to a particular topic or referred to in a scholarly work.
  • zoopraxography: the study of animal locomotion.

SIDEBAR: Words to the Wise received a favorable review in Andrea McDougal’s Word Nerds Rejoice: Top 25 Blogs For Editing Geeks.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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