• phylogeny •
Pronunciation: fê-lah-jê-ni • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The evolutionary development of a species, organism, or organ in an organism. 2. The history of the sociological development of a people or race.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a participant in a lively and long-standing debate in biology over recapitulation, the theory that ontogeny, the development of the embryo to a baby ready for birth, 'recapitulates' (reiterates) the stages of development of human phylogeny, the evolutionary development of humans from lower biological species. The adjective is phylogenetic and the adverb, phylogenetically.
In Play: Outside the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" and the discussion surrounding that claim, there would seem to be little use for today's Good Word. However, the clever conversationalist can always find new uses: "If Mel Inger isn't from another planet, he certainly is the product of a different phylogeny." And that doesn't even push the envelope like this one: "Did you ever notice how the ontology of Microsoft Windows XP recapitulates its phylogeny when it starts up, going from DOS through images of past versions to its current version?"
Word History: Today's Good Word was created from Greek phylon "race, class, phylum" + -geny, a reduction of genesis "origin, birth". Phylon is a derivation of Proto-Indo-European bheu "to be, live, grow" which developed into English be and Russian byt' "to be". Greek phylon is related to the -phyte in such words as neophyte "beginner, novice" from neos "new" + phytos "planted", from the verb phuein "to plant, grow". We have discussed the origin of the root geny in connection with genesis and other words. (The genesis of today's Good Word is a suggestion by Grogie in the Alpha Agora, where you can discuss this and other Good Words with other web-footed verbivores every day.)