• meliphagous •
Pronunciation: me-li-fê-gês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Honey-eating, feeding on honey or nectar, as bees and bears are meliphagous creatures.
Notes: Today's Good Word has replaced an earlier synonym, mellivorous with a spare L. The noun should be meliphagy, but this word does not seem to appear in the major dictionaries. Use it anyway if you need it. Just look out for the spelling of [f] as PH and don't confuse the ending with that in the related word sarcophagus (see Word History).
In Play: The reason we seldom hear today's rather useful word is because biologists have been hiding it from us for years and enjoying it all to themselves. We can put it to better use, though: "I don't go camping because I am so sweet and fear all the meliphagous bugs and beasts of the forest." In fact, we can use it over a far broader range of topics than do biologists: "Tommy Belcher is the most meliphagous man I know: he puts honey on his cereal, in his coffee—everywhere other people put sugar."
Word History: Today's extremely Good Word is Greek in origin, based on meli "honey" + phagein "to eat". Meli is also visible in the word referring to the honey-maker, melissa "bee", found in the English word melissophobia "fear of bees". The root of phagein "to eat" is found in many scientific terms like today's Good Word but also in sarcophagus "stone coffin" from the Greek word meaning "flesh-eating". The Greeks made their sarcophagi from limestone, which they believed ate the flesh of the dead away from the bones.