• ontology •
ahn-tahl-ê-jee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The branch of philosophy (metaphysics) that deals with being and existence, including reality. 2. The being and existence of some object of idea itself. 3. The description of a set of categories and the relations between them in some subject area or domain.
Notes: Today's word has all the relatives usually associated with words ending on -ology: the adjective is ontologic(al) and the personal noun, ontologist. This word should not be confused with ontogeny, which means "the development of an organism over its growth".
In Play: The relationship between the mind and body is an ontological question mulled over for millennia. Ontology deals directly with being, that is, becoming, existence, reality, as well as the relations of these basic categories. "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one sees or hears it, did it fall?" is an ontological question. Otherwise, we may use this word in general conversations like this: "His presentation focused on ontology: what is real and what is not."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound noun created in the late 16th or early 17th century by philosophers from the stem of Greek ontos "being, that which exists" + -logy "science of", from Greek logos "word, idea, reason". The root ont- "being" was an irregular present participial form of the PIE word es- "to be". In most Indo-European languages the word for "is" is close to es: English is, French est, Polish jest. The present participle forms of many Indo-European languages preserve the vowel+NT or ND combination, such as French sont, Italian essente, Portuguese and Spanish estando, Dutch zijnd, and German seiend. (We owe Gordon Wray, an active participant in the Alpha Agora, a note of gratitude for suggesting today's rather fuzzy Good Word.)
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