Printable Version
Pronunciation: lah-gê-græm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A single character that represents an entire word, like 3 = three or drei in German, trois in French. $ = dollar.

Notes: Do not confuse today's Good Word with ideogram and ideograph. They are single characters representing ideas, not words, like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Chinese characters are logograms or logographs. The adjective for this word is logogrammatic(al).

In Play: The ampersand (&) is a logogram, representing the conjunction and. Unlike the alphabet used in character-based writing systems, a logogrammatic writing system associates each logogram with the entire sound of a word. A logogram that is a recognizable picture is better referred to as a logograph or pictograph, such as a shell for "Shell Oil Company" for its logo(graph).

Word History: Today's Good Word is obviously a borrowed Greek compound comprising logo(s) "word" + gram(ma) "a drawing". Logos comes from PIE leg-/log- "to gather". How it came to be both Latin lexis "word" and lex "law" remains a mystery. It also ended up in Serbian as lek "medicine" and lekar "doctor, and in English as leech, once used as medicine. This connection here is assumed to go back to the time when witch doctors used words to cure people. Gramma is a metathesized form of PIE gerbh- "to scratch, write" with a -ma suffix, the noun from Greek graphein "to scratch, carve, write". Others sharing the same source include German krabbeln "to itch, tickle", English crab, and Danish krabbe "crab". Without metathesis, we find Dutch kerven "to carve", English carve, and German kerben "to notch". (Now for a word of recognition to Wordmaster Lew Jury for suggesting we look into today's lexically loaded Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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