There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry

atkins-bookshelf-wordsThey are out there, numbering in the millions. You know the type — they love working on crossword puzzles, word scrambles, playing Scrabble, participating in spelling bees, and are often insufferable punsters. All of these individuals embrace epeolatry, the worship of words. The word was coined by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, the famous American physician, professor, author and poet, in his thought-provoking book, The Professor of the Breakfast Table, published in 1860. Holmes writes: “Time, time only, can gradually wean us from our Epeolatry, or word-worship, by spiritualizing our ideas of the thing signified.” The word epeolatry is derived from the Greek words epos, meaning “word”, and -latry from latreia, meaning “worship.” The word is pronounced “ep-i-OL-ah-tree.” By extension, a worshiper of words is an epeolatrist, which sounds more sophisticated than  logophile, logophiliac, wordaholic, word fanatic, word nut, logolept, or verbivore (a word coined by linguist Richard Lederer in the early 1980s). Paradoxically, most of these terms for word lovers are rare and do not appear in most conventional dictionaries. Go figure.

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