Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply


Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jun 17, 2014 8:13 pm

I read the following in a recently released, apparently respectable novel.
<2014 “To really touch something she was learning—the bark of a sycamore tree in the gardens; a pinned stag beetle in the Department of Etymology; the exquisitely polished interior of a scallop shell in Dr. Geffard’s workshop—is to love it.”—All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 6 May, page 30>
As we all know even the educated sometimes get the words etymology and entomology confused - even my family doctor blew it a few months ago (we often discuss things besides medicine.). so, here's the definitions and etymologies of etymology and entomology:

1) The derivation of a word.
2) An account of the history of a particular word or element of a word.
3) The study of historical linguistic change, especially as manifested in individual words.

[1350-1400] The branch of zoology dealing with insects.[Middle English etimologie, from Old French ethimologie, from Medieval Latin ethimologia, from Latin etymologia, from Greek etumologiā : etumon, ‘true sense of a word’; see etymon + -logiā, -logy, ‘the study of.’

etymon [1560-1570]: The linguistic form from which another form is historically derived, as the Latin cor “heart,” which is the ‘etymon’ of English cordial.


ENTOMOLOGY noun [1760-70]: The branch of zoology dealing with scientific study of insects, including their taxonomy, morphology, physiology, and ecology. Applied aspects of entomology, such as the harmful and beneficial impact of insects on humans [[and humans on insects]], are also studied.

[from French entomologie modern Latin entomologia from entomo- “combining form of Greek entomon adjective ‘cut up,’ in sense ‘insects’ with reference to the division of their bodies into segments (‘having a notch or cut at the waist’). So called by Aristotle in reference to the segmented division of insect bodies. Occurring with sense ‘insect’ in many scientific compounds of modern formation.”


(American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Online Etymology Dictionary, and aRandom House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary)

Here’s are some examples of the misuse:
<1997 “what is the origin, entomology, definition, and correct spelling of ‘doofus’?”—Ask the Wordwizard, 6 August>

<2007 “Very frequently, people will ask me for the “entomology” of a word, and it can be quite difficult sometimes to avoid discussing how the word relates to insects.”—Linguistic Mystic, 14 June>

<2012 “The folks at The Phrase Finder take a stab at the entomology of the word here: . . .”—Phrase Finder, 14 March>

<2013 Maeve Maddox: “A speaker at a recent school board meeting claimed the vocabulary of the average American grade school student was 25,000 words in 1945 and about 10,000 today. This is pretty disturbing if true. What do you think?” Cecil Adams (The Straight Dope): “Despite being plainly absurd, your factoid has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and even science journals, each typically citing other such appearances as backup. At times it’s been attributed to Gallup polls or even entomologists.”—BottomLine English.com, 31 May>
So, next time you are feeling generous and, as a favor, offer to pin a beetle for your (correctly identified) professor of E. . . . . . ology, volunteer to do it in the Department of Entomology and not in the Department of Etymology. Ento is not that close to Etym, but when you tack the mology on they sound similar, but no cigar!

Ken G – June 17, 2014 (What’s the entomology of entomology? Have mercy!) (>:)

Re: entomology/etymology

Post by tony h » Tue Jun 17, 2014 11:42 pm

Also from word wizard 2006
http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewto ... 20&t=18916

It still makes me smile.
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Post Reply