• dendrochronology •
Pronunciation: den-drê-krê-nah-lê-gee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The study of the history of climatic and environmental changes of a geographical region based on the interpretation of the annual growth rings in the trunks of trees.
Notes: Those who devote themselves to studying tree rings are dendrochronologists, and their studies are dendrochronological, that is, dendochronologically speaking. To the trained eye, tree rings tell us much more than simply the age of the tree. You can find out all you want to know about reading tree rings at The Ultimate Tree Ring Website.
In Play: The study of tree rings as indicators of the history of climatic and environmental conditions is not only taken seriously, it has become a respected science: "We thought Hester was just a tree-hugger until she completed her PhD in dendrochronology at the University of Tennessee." Of course, you have to beware of amateurs: "We stopped burning logs in our fireplace when an amateur dendrochronologist told us how much history of the area was going up in smoke."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from a Greek-based compound made up of dendron "tree" + another compound, "chronologia", from chronos "time" + log- "word, idea" + ia, a noun suffix. Greek dendron "tree" also found its way into dendrophile "tree lover" and dendrolatry "tree worship". The root is from a Proto-Indo-European word with three variations, doru-, deru-, dru- "solid, be firm". The [u] tended to become [w] or [v] if preceded by a vowel, so we find in Old Slavic drevo "tree, wood," which remains in Serbian, but became derevo in Russian. In Old English the dru- form became treow and, ultimately tree. The deru- form gave us tar, originally derived from the sap of trees.