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Pronounced /ɛpɪˈɒlətrɪ/Help with pronunciation

Though an appropriate term for this forum — meaning as it does the worship of words — it hasn’t achieved any great success in the world at large. It’s not even especially old, since its first known user, and presumably its creator, was Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his Professor at the Breakfast Table of 1860: “Time, time only, can gradually wean us from our Epeolatry, or word-worship, by spiritualizing our ideas of the thing signified.”

It derives from Greek epos, a word, plus the -latry ending from Greek latreia, worship, that turns up also in words such as idolatry. For some reason, epos lost out in the Greek-roots popularity stakes to logos. However, epic is from the same source, an epoist is a writer of epic poetry, and cacoepy means faulty pronunciation (a word suitably easy to say wrongly: it’s /kæˈkəʊɪpɪ/ Help with IPA).

Its appearances are so few that the tag “obscure” attached to it in some dictionaries is all too apt. However, I did find it in a work called Anurada Negotiates Our Wobbly Planet, a self-published title of 2006 by Roger Day: “I read my dictionary for a few more minutes, until tiredness eventually brought my epeolatry to an end for the day.”

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 5 Aug. 2006

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-epo1.htm
Last modified: 5 August 2006.