Printable Version
Pronunciation: pe-trê-glif Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A carving in stone, a stone carving, particularly an ancient one.

Notes: No loitering. A petroglyph differs from a petrograph in that the latter is a drawing on stone, rather than a carving. A hieroglyph, of course, is a "holy drawing" used as a writing system. The adjective for today's Good Word is petroglyphic, which opens the door for an adverb, petroglyphically.

In Play: We have no room for metaphorical play with this word: "Hector was surprised to see a petroglyph that looked strangely like his wife." Petroglyphs often reflect the written word: "Archeologists called in linguists to translate the petroglyph found at their third century excavation site; the petroglyph read, "No loitering. Violators will be executed." (No mention of a trial.)

Word History: Today's Good Word is one devised in the 19th century, no doubt, by archeologists who combined the Greek words petra "rock" + glyphe "carving". We are not sure where petra came from, but we know it has gone into many Indo-European words, including English petroleum, petrous "stone-like", petrology "the science of rocks", and petrichor. Glyphe is from glyphein "to hollow out, engrave, carve". Greek inherited this root from the same Proto-Indo-European word that produced English cleave, cleft, and clove (of garlic, etc.) It is also behind Latin glubere "to peel, shell, strip". (We shall resist any temptation to express our gratitude in petroglyphs to William Hupy for recommending today's Good Word)

Dr. Goodword,

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