• bibliotherapy •
bib-li-ê-ther-rê-pi • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Reading books as therapy for anxiety or more serious mental disorders.
Notes: The adjective for this word is bibliotherapeutic(al) with an optional suffix -al that becomes mandatory before the adverbial suffix -ly, bibliotherapeutically. Someone who practices bibliotherapy is a bibliotherapist.
In Play: April of 2020 is a good time to apply bibliotherapy. We can sooth our anxiety over the corona virus by reading carefully selected books while we are self-quarantined at home: "My bibliotherapist told me to avoid medical books, especially those about viruses during my self-quarantine." However, according to New Scientist magazine (October 26, 1971), books on science and science fiction appear to be the most effective types of reading matter for bibliotherapy.
Word History: This word has only been around since the beginning of the 20th century. It is a compound based on Greek words (via Latin and French), biblion "paper, scroll, letter" + therapeia "healing". Biblion underlies our word Bible. The combining form of biblion, biblio-, is found in many English words, including bibliography, bibliotheque "library", bibliophile "book-lover", bibliopole "book-seller, and bibliophagist "devourer of books". Greek borrowed their word from Egyptian byblos "papyrus". All we know about therapeia is that it was derived from Greek therapon "attendant, one who administers". Where therapon came from, no one knows. (Now a nod to the mysterious Grogie, our long-time contributor and obvious bibliophagist, for suggesting today's very topical Good Word.)
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