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Pronounced /pəˌriːmɪɒˈlɒdʒɪkl/Help with pronunciation

The word is from Latin, in which language it appeared in the third century AD as a borrowing from Greek paroemia, a proverb. In 1639 John Clarke, the headmaster of Lincoln grammar school, published an early work on proverbs, from the works of Erasmus. He gave it the title Paroemiologia anglolatina, Proverbs English and Latin. Many paroemiological collections, those relating to the study of proverbs, have been created since.

It is a paroemiological commonplace (a proverb scholar’s proverb) that proverbs and sentences are often difficult and sometimes very enigmatic indeed.

Studies in Philology, Summer 2004.

As it’s comparatively easy to find examples, it’s surprising that the recent revision of the letter P in the online Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t feature paroemiological. However, it does have a number of close relatives, such as paroemiologist, a student of or an expert in proverbs and proverb lore, and paroemiology, the study itself, as well as paroemiographer, a collector of or writer on proverbs, and paroemia itself, an adage or proverb. Apart from this last one, all were coined in the early nineteenth century.

If you prefer, as many scholarly users do these days, you can spell all these without the first o.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 5 Jan. 2008

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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-par4.htm
Last modified: 5 January 2008.