Words of Divination – Words that end with the Greek element ‘-mancy’

Continuing my series of posts on words from the same etymological families, in this post we will look at words that end in ‘-mancy’.

‘-mancy’ is a word-forming element of Greek origin that means ‘divination by means of’. For example, ‘cartomancy’ is ‘divination by means of playing-cards’. And ‘tasseomancy’ is ‘divination by means of reading tea leaves’ (which you might remember from Harry Potter).

We also use words ending in ‘-mancy’ to denote kinds of magic. ‘Necromancy’ is often used to mean a type of magic capable of reanimating dead bodies. ‘Pyromancy’ is often used as a general term for ‘fire magic’ – as in Game of Thrones. (Interestingly, it is the Mad King’s fire mages who are called ‘pyromancers’, but Melisandre is far more fitting of the term, since she does actually use fire for divination.)

This family of words is, clearly, of great use to writers of fantasy. And, it turns out, there are a lot more words in this family than one might first expect – most of them aren’t used very often – perhaps an opportunity to bring some back.

Below are words ending in ‘-mancy’ that I’ve been able to find in dictionaries.

WordMeaning and EtymologyAgent Noun
bibliomancydivination by means of opening a book at random; from Greek biblion, meaning ‘paper’, ‘scroll’; could perhaps also be used to refer to any magic that uses booksbibliomancer
spodomancydivination by means of ashes; from Greek spodos, meaning ‘ashes’, ’embers’spodomancer
sciomancydivination by communication with shades of the dead; from Greek skia, meaning ‘shade’, ‘shadow’; could perhaps also be used just to mean ‘shadow-magic’sciomancer
chiromancydivination by the hand – palm-reading, essentially; from Greek kheir, meaning ‘hand’; could also be used to refer to any kind of magic that uses hand gestureschiromancer
geomancydivination by means of signs in the Earth – from Greek ge, meaning ‘Earth’geomancer
lecanomancydivination by inspection of water in a basin; ultimately from Greek lekos, meaning ‘plate’, ‘pan’; could also be used to mean divination by inspecting broken plates or potterylecanomancer
capnomancydivination by smoke; from Greek kapnos, meaning ‘smoke’capnomancer
gyromancydivination by walking in circles; this is quite a funny one; from Greek gyros, meaning ‘circle’gyromancer
crystallomancydivination by means of crystals – looking into a crystal ball; from Greek krystallos, meaning ‘clear ice’; this word could also be used for ‘divination by looking into ice’ or ‘ice magic’crystallomancer
rhabdomancydivination by use of a divining rod; from Greek rhabdos, meaning ‘rod’, ‘wand’, ‘staff’; could also just be used to mean ‘wand-magic’ – so possibly quite a useful word; much of the magic in Harry Potter could perhaps be described as rhabdomancyrhabdomancer
rhapsodomancydivination by means of verses; from Greek rhapsodos, meaning ‘reciter of epic poems’; could be used to refer to any kind of magic that uses incantations – and so, like rhabdomancy, could refer to a type of magic that appears commonly in fiction; could also be used to refer to a kind of magic that uses songsrhapsodomancer
cartomancydivination by means of playing-cards; from Greek khartes, meaning ‘layer of papyrus’; could be used for any kind of magic that involves papercartomancer
astromancydivination by means of the stars and planets – what today is commonly called ‘astrology’astromancer
oneiromancydivination through dreams; from Greek oneiros, meaning ‘dream’oneiromancer
ophiomancydivination through interpreting the movements of coiling snakes; from Greek ophis, meaning ‘snake’ophiomancer
anthracomancydivination by inspection of burning coals; from Greek anthrax, meaning ‘live coal’; potentially a useful word in combination with ‘pyromancy’anthracomancer
arithmancydivination by numbers; from Greek arithmos, meaning ‘number’arithmancer
catoptromancydivination by means of a mirror; this is quite a good one; from Greek katoptron, meaning ‘mirror’catoptromancer
psephomancydivination by means of pebbles; from Greek psephos, meaning ‘pebble’psephomancer
tephromancydivination by means of ashes (from a sacrifice); from Greek tephra, meaning ‘ashes’tephromancer
ornithomancydivination by means of birds; from Greek ornis, meaning ‘bird’ornithomancer
pegomancydivination by fountains; from Greek pege, meaning ‘fountain’, ‘spring’pegomancer
pyromancydivination by means of fire; from Greek pyr, meaning ‘fire’; also just a general word for ‘fire magic’pyromancer
cubomancydivination by throwing dice; from Greek kybos, meaning ‘die’cubomancer
ceromancydivination by inspection of melted wax; from Greek keros, meaning ‘beeswax’ceromancer
psychomancydivination by consultation with souls of the deceased; from Greek psykhe, meaning ‘soul’, ‘mind’; could just be used to refer generally to psychic powerspsychomancer
necromancydivination by communication with the dead; from Greek nekros, meaning ‘dead body’; has the more general meaning of ‘black magic’, and is often used to mean ‘magic involving dead bodies’necromancer
xylomancydivination by means of wood; from Greek xylon, meaning ‘wood’, ‘timber’xylomancer
onomancydivination from the letters of a name; from Greek onoma, meaning ‘name’onomancer
phyllomancydivination by means of leaves; from Greek phullon, meaning ‘leaf’phyllomancer
hydromancy divination by the appearance or motion of liquids; from Greek hydor, meaning ‘water’; could just be used as a general term for ‘water-magic’ (such as water-bending in Avatar)hydromancer
aeromancy divination by means of air; from Greek aer, meaning ‘air’; could just be used as a general term for ‘air-magic’ (such as air-bending in Avatar)aeromancer
lithomancy divination by stones; from Greek lithos, meaning ‘stone’; can be used for ‘stone-magic’lithomancer
chronomancy divination to determine the favourable time for an action; from Greek khronos, meaning ‘time’; could just be used for ‘time-magic’chronomancer

There are a few others that I found, but they were less interesting. As you can see, there’s a lot of them – you could use them in some quite interesting ways in fantasy stories.

The table below gives some words ending in ‘-mancy’ that I’ve made up with my limited knowledge of Classical Greek. (I haven’t checked if anyone else has made these up too – it’s quite possible.)

WordMeaning and EtymologyAgent Noun
electromancydivination by means of amber; divination by means of electricity; electricity-magic; from Greek elektron, meaning ‘amber’electromancer
chromomancydivination by means of colour; colour-magic; from Greek khroma, meaning ‘colour’chromomancer
heliomancydivination by means of the Sun; Sun-magic; from Greek helios, meaning ‘the Sun’heliomancer
logomancyword-magic; speech-magic; perhaps a term for any magic that involves incantations; from Greek logos, meaning ‘word’, ‘speech’logomancer
anthomancyflower-magic; from Greek anthos, meaning ‘flower’anthomancer
selenomancydivination by means of the Moon; from Greek selene, meaning ‘the Moon’selenomancer

As is usual with these posts, I may add more words over time.

Words of Hatred – Words that start with the Greek element ‘miso-’

‘Misanthropy’ is a hatred of humankind. ‘Misandry’ is a hatred of men; ‘misogyny’ is a hatred of women. Together they are part of a family of words that use the Greek element miso- / mis-, meaning ‘hatred’, as a prefix.

When I was looking up miso- on etymonline.com one day, I saw that there are other words that start with this element, such as ‘misocapnic’ – ‘hating smoke’ – and ‘misocynic’ – ‘hating dogs’ – and wondered if there are other miso- words that, through circumstance, hadn’t made it into Modern English (or at least, weren’t common in Modern English).

I found quite a few. Misologia – a hatred of argument or discourse – a very useful word for the modern day. Misodemia – a hatred of democracy – also very useful. Misagathia – a hatred of good – an extremely useful one both for describing some people in the real world and for describing some people in fantasy worlds.

So I’ve compiled this short list (which I may add to later) of words that start with miso- / mis-, that describe a kind of hatred, and which might be particularly useful, and so good to bring into Modern English. I myself will be using several of these quite a lot.

Words I found a dictionary entry for

GreekRomanised Greek / English NeologismMeaningAdjectival Form
μισαγαθίαmisagathiaa hatred of goodmisagathic
μισοδημίαmisodemiaa hatred of democracymisodemic
μισολογίαmisologiaa hatred of argumentmisologic
μισοπονηρίαmisoponeriaa hatred of evilmisoponeric
μισαλληλίαmisalleliamutual hatredmisallelic
misosophia / misosophya hatred of wisdom (opposite of philosophy)misosophic, misosophical

Note that the English neologisms could be given spellings that follow the same evolutionary changes as words like ‘misanthropy’ – i.e., ‘misagathy’, ‘misodemy’. Personally I prefer the -ia ending.

Words that I have constructed based on my limited knowledge of Classical Greek

The words in the table below I did not find a direct dictionary entry for. I have constructed them from other words and entries. My knowledge of Classical Greek is very limited, and doubtless there is an expert out there who can tell me if these inferred words are correct (both in terms of their construction and their romanisation).

GreekRomanised Greek / English NeologismMeaningAdjectival Form
μισοκαπνίαmisocapniaa hatred of smokemisocapnic
μισοκυνίαmisocyniaa hatred of dogsmisocynic
μισαἴλουρίαmisailuriaa hatred of catsmisailuric
μισαλήθειαmisaletheia / misalethiaa hatred of truthmisaletheic / misalethic