Printable Version
Pronunciation: fi-nah-lê-ji Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The cyclic and seasonal biological phenomena caused by climatic conditions. 2. A subfield of ecology focusing on phenology in the first sense.

Notes: Phenologists study the dates of bird migration, the date of leaf coloring in deciduous trees, the comings and goings of honeybee colonies and their relation to climate changes. Aside from the agent noun we see above, this word comes with an adjective, phenological, and adverb, phenologically.

In Play: The first sense of today's word shows up in claims like this: "Climate change is having dramatic effects on the phenology of the planet." The second sense has a role in expressions like this: "Phenology, the timing of bird migrations, animal feeding habits, changes in plant growth in relation to climate, is an engrossing field of study."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an adaptation of German phnologisch, introduced by Karl Fritsch in 1853. Fritsch created his loan translation from Latin phaeno- "bring to light, to show" + -log- "study of". Latin phaeno- came from Greek phaino-, from phainein "bring to light, show". Greek created its word from PIE bha-n- "to shine", source also of Armenian banam "I open, reveal", Sanskrit bhati "lights, shows", and Irish bán "white". The suffix -logy comes from Greek logos "word, idea, speech", inherited from PIE leg-/log- "to speak", our old friend which ended up in IE languages in words meaning "speech" and "law". In horology I opined that it comes from the days when the word of the king was the law. Latin lex, legis "law" and Greek lexis "speech" and logos "word, thought" underlie a myriad of borrowed words in English. (Let's all give William Hupy, a tried-and-true member of the Alpha Agora, an e-bow for recommending today's most topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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