Printable Version
Pronunciation: aw-tê-lah-ji-kêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Pertaining to self-knowledge, the study of oneself, autology. 2. An example of the property it denotes, e.g. noun, word, adjectival. It is the antonym of heterological, referring to words that are not examples of their meaning.

Notes: Today's Good Word is obviously the adjective for autology "knowledge of oneself" or "self-reference" in the sense above. The adverb is autologically. It raises the question (the Grelling-Nelson paradox): Is heterological autological or heterological? Its grammatical category (adjective) is autological, but its sense is heterological.

In Play: This category plays no role in linguistics, the scientific study of language. It remains, therefore, simply a curiosity. Here is a list of instances of this curiosity: English, Deutsch, français, short, unhyphenated, polysyllabic, suffixed, prefixed, readable, common, real, existent. Need more? Click here.

Word History: Today's Good Word is a loan translation made up of the Greek components auto- "(one)self" + log- "tell, study, idea" + -ic(al), an adjective suffix. Greek autos "self" is of unknown origin, but we have met logos "word, idea, speech", the noun for legein "to say, speak", many times before. This word derives, oddly enough, from PIE, leg-/log- "to gather". It is found in Greek lexis "speech", once perceived as gathering words, and Latin legere "to bring together, gather; to read aloud". The root of the Latin verb is visible in the Latinate English borrowings lecture, legible and legend. We also see it in legal and legislate from Latin lex "law", things which are also collected. The PIE word arrived in Old English as laece "physician, doctor", which devolved into leech in Modern English, due to physicians using these creatures in the past for "curing" various diseases. (Iain Smallwood, who joined our merry band of contributors back in 2009, is responsible for today's intriguing Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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