The suffix -ology is tacked onto the end of a seemingly endless number of words, so much so that it feels like it can be added onto any word. Well, I’m here to tell you that it kind of can, but first let’s look into what the ologies really are.
As a suffix, -ology indicates a field of study and describes the root or prefix. More specifically -logy means “the study of.” This suffix originates from the Greek suffix –λογια (-logia), which translates to sayings, discourses or the branch of knowledge of a certain discipline. It’s the plural version of λόγιον (logion) which means “a saying” or an “oracle.” This brings us to its ancient use. Both -logia and logion were used in predominantly biblical and religious contexts. It was used interchangeably with the “The Word of God” in ancient religious texts.
In the 18th century the English language started using the suffix to identify multiple fields of study including science, history and geography. There began a parallel increase in both the opening of doors for different fields of study and the use of -ology to denote those fields. Today there are hundreds of -ology words and they may all look kind of similar because they all end the same way, but you can identify the specific branch of knowledge from the root word. Or put more simply, the thing that comes before -ology. The suffix of -ology also converts to -ologist when referring to a person that specializes in a specific field of study.
We’re all familiar with the most commonly used -ologies such as biology, psychology or etymology. So let’s take a look at some of the more obscure -ologies that exist:
The study of knowledge itself or the theory of knowledge. It’s a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature, origins and limits of human knowledge. It derives from the Greek word epistēmē “knowledge,” and from epistasthai “know, know how to do.”
The study of mythical creatures. Stemming from Zoology, the study of animals. The word crypto has Greek origins and literally means “hidden.” So, the study of hidden animals. If I research the Loch Ness Monster, am I technically a cryptozoologist?
The study of wine. Deriving from the Greek word oinos, meaning “wine.” More specifically, it is the study of viticulture which is the growing, cultivation and harvesting of grapes. So, does drinking a lot of wine make one an Oenologist? Asking for a friend.
Nope, not the study of kids, but this is kind of similar. Kidology is the study of deception or bluffing. It irregularly formed from the verb “to kid” in the 1960s.
The study of kissing. It explores the biological results kissing on our body, brain and spirit, as well as the different cultural meanings of kissing around the world. It derives from the Greek word phílēma, also known as kissing.
The study, or art, of bell-ringing. Deriving from the late Latin word campana meaning “bell.” It includes how bells are made and the methods for ringing them. Sounds like an ear-ringing profession.
The study of fecal matter. It derives from the Greek word skōr, translating to “dung.” Scatological studies help to determine a wide range of biological information about a species, including its diet, health and diseases. Trying to stay in the realm of appropriate, okay?
The study of garbage. This one’s pretty obvious, it comes from the late middle English word “garbage.” More specifically, it’s the study of the material discarded by a society to learn what it reveals about social or cultural patterns. This list is getting pretty stinky.
The study of beards. Evolving from Latin word for beard pogon. It covers why society favors all the mustaches, beards and sideburns. It appears to be a hairy situation.
The study of puns. This one is pretty straightforward. It would only be right to round this out with a real punny field of study.
Now that you’re all caught up on some of the weirdest fields of studies it’s time to find the one for you! If you’re interested in learning about more niche professions or fields of studies, Alie Ward has a podcast called Ologies, where she interviews a different scientist every episode. Does that make her an Ologologist?