Printable Version
Pronunciation: en-tê-mah-lê-jee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: That branch of zoology focusing on the study of insects.

Notes: The major trap to beware of is confusing this word with etymology "the study of the history of words". Every day we offer the etymology of the Good Word under the heading of "Word History". Someone who is engaged in entomological study is an entomologist.

In Play: Since this word refers to a scientific specialty, its use is limited: "BU has a strong entomology program. Some of the best people in the field are there." Still, we can have fun with it: "Arthur's son, David, took his love of bugging people to college; he's majoring in entomology."

Word History: Entomology comes from the Greek entomon, the neuter of entomos "cut in two", referring to most insects' segmented bodies. The verb underlying this past participle is entemnein "to cut into", comprising en- "in(to)" + temnein "to cut". (Latin insectum "insect" is a loan translation of the Greek, made up of in "in(to) + sect(um) "cut".) English helped itself to several words from Greek based on this root: anatomy "the study of the uncut body", lobotomy "removal of a lobe of the brain" and atom "uncuttable, indivisible particle", which we now know is divisible. We see it also in temple from Latin templum, which apparently referred to a place that was cleared of trees, cut out of the forest, where auguries were carried out. (We don't know where Dan Joseph's interest in entomology comes from, but we are glad he bugged us with his suggestion that we work it up as today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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