• genealogy •
Pronunciation: jee-nee-æl-ê-jee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A family history. 2. The study or creation of family histories from historical documents
Notes: Today's Good Word catches my eye frequently when it is spelled with an O instead of an A: geneology. US dictionaries like American Heritage and Merriam-Webster offer the O-variant as a possible pronunciation, no doubt contributing to the spelling error. Don't fall for it. The adjective for this word is genealogical and the adverb genealogically. All of them contain one and only one O.
In Play: With the rise of the online genealogical companies, more and more of us are tracing our family histories: "I looked up my genealogy and discovered that I'm not the first member of my family to steal a means of transportation." Some of us are happier with what we find than others: "I think a search of Billy Bob's genealogy would reveal a family tree that doesn't branch."
Word History: English picked up this word, as usual, from French généalogie, the descendant of Latin genealogia, a word Latin borrowed directly from Greek genealogia. The ancient Greeks are, therefore, responsible for the appearance of the A rather than the expected O in this word. Their word genea meant "family, clan" and, for some reason, they did not drop the final A before adding the root of logos "word, reckoning, wisdom" and the noun suffix -ia. The word genea is the plural of genos. English borrowed the Latin version of this word, too, as genus. We find the root of this word in many other borrowed English words like generation, gene, genetics, and general.