Printable Version
Pronunciation: hê-rah-lê-jee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. The study of the measurement of time. 2. The art of making instruments that measure time, especially clockmaking and watchmaking.

Notes: Today's Good Word is based on horologe "a timepiece, hourglass or (sun)dial". It brings with it an adjective, horologic(al) and a personal noun, horologist "a timepiece maker".

In Play: This word refers to any device for measuring time: "I make decorative sundials for gardens. Is that horology?" It also refers to the most sophisticated time-measurers: "Swiss watchmakers, known for their accomplishments in haute horology, have designed a watch with nods to the playfulness of Looney Tunes while showcasing masterful technical prowess."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a creation of constituents of the ancient Greek lexicon: hor-a "hour, time, season" + log-os "word, idea, reason" + -ia, a noun suffix. Hora was passed down from PIE yer-/yor- "year, season", source also of English year, and German Jahr. English borrowed its hour, Spanish, its hora, and French, its heure "hour" from the Latin copy of Greek hora. Logos comes from that strange PIE word leg-/log-, which seems to have referred to both law and speech. We see it in the Latinate borrowings legal and legislate, on the one hand, and logic and loquacious on the other. It is usually presented as meaning "to gather, collect", because both laws and the words of a language are collected. I think it goes back to the time when the word of the autocrat was the law. Neither theory has any hard evidence to support it. (Thanks again goes to George Kovac, a long-time contributor and avid participant in the Agora, for today's useful but seldom used Good Word family.)

Dr. Goodword,

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