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teleology

Printable Version Pronunciation: te-li-ah-lê-ji Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: The causal factors in the development of things or the study of these factors, which is to say, the study of how phenomena get to be the way they are.

Notes: Everyone wants to know why the things around us are the way they are, especially scientists, who have come up with today's Good Word to express this curiosity. Finding the reasons behind phenomena, of course, is what scientists are for, so they have created a full complement of derivative words to help us talk about their pursuits. A person researching teleology is a teleologist (the agent noun) involved in teleological (the adjective) studies.

In Play: Let's start with probably the best known theory of teleology in science: "Darwin's theory on the origin of species offers a teleology of the species diversity on Earth." Even though we seldom hear the word in casual conversation, it does fit everyday situations: "I don't know the teleology of the decision to charge for on-campus parking but I wish the faculty had been a part of it."

Word History: The constituent tele- in today's Good Word is unrelated to the similar one in television and telephone. The latter came from the Greek adverb tele "at a distance" but the tele- in today's word came from Greek telos "goal, completion of a cycle". Where this word came from is a mystery. However, we do also find it in Greek telesma "consecration ceremony", a word borrowed by Arabic as tilasm. This word was next borrowed by Spanish from Arabic during the Moorish Period of Spanish history (711-1492). The Spanish spelled the Arabic word talismán, which is approximately how we spell today, after borrowing it from Spanish. (We are not sure of the teleology of Rachelle Shubert's suggesion that we discuss today's Good Word, but we thank her for doing so.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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