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toxophily

Printable Version Pronunciation: tahk-sah-fê-li Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: The study or love of archery.

Notes: Today's word has an unusual personal noun offspring: toxophilite. It is unusual because all other "phile" nouns end just there, with phile: anglophile, ailurophile, bibliophile, for example. Toxophilites distinguish themselves from all other lovers by tacking on a personal noun suffix, -ite, as in socialite. Why? Check out the Word History.

In Play: Toxophilites, I gather from today's contributor, are a tightly knit group: "Archer Bowman met his wife at a meeting of the Toxophily Association, where he discovered that they owned exactly the same type of bow!" Quivering with delight, he came straight to the point at the end of their first session together on the archery field, and blurted out a marriage proposal. The critical thing to remember is that toxophilites are not simply archers, they are devotees of the sport: "I've met plenty of archers, but few toxophilites."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from a book title, Toxophilus, the first book on archery in English. Written by Roger Ascham and published in London in 1545, it immediately had hundreds if not thousands of readers, who called themselves toxophilites "followers of Toxophilus". This is how the superfluous suffix came about. Toxophilus was the name of the main character, meaning "lover of the bow", based on Greek: toxon "bow" + philos "lover". Toxon comes from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning "flow, fly", judging by what it came to be in later generations of languages: Russian potok "stream" and Lithuanian teketi "flow", for example. We know very little about philos. It may have developed from the same word that became German Bild "picture". We do see evidence of its use in many non-Greek words, like Philadelphia "The City of Brotherly Love", from philos "love" + adelpheos "brother". We have a major collection of them in our Corrected List of Philias. (Today's Good Word came from a suggestion of Conita Benson, a true toxophilite.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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