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 Extremity – Words that start with the Greek elements ‘dys-‘ or ‘eu-‘

One of my favourite etymology facts is that the word ‘utopia’ does not really mean ‘a perfect place’, as we tend to think it does in Modern English. It actually, literally means ‘a place that does not exist’. It comes from the Greek ou, meaning ‘not’, and topos, meaning ‘place’. The word was coined by Thomas More – Henry VIII’s Lord High Chancellor – in the 1500s, and used as the title for his book about an imaginary island that had perfect political, legal, and social systems – the idea being that such a perfect place could not exist.

The overlap between these two meanings of ‘a place that does not exist’ and ‘a perfect place’ comes in part from this original use of the word, but also because the sound of the word ‘utopia’ is the same as the word ‘eutopia’ – which isn’t a word that really exists in Modern English (you can find it here and there, but it’s far from common), but it would mean ‘a perfect place’. This element eu- is another Greek element, which means ‘good’, and it appears in lots of other Modern English words: euphemism, eulogy, euthanasia.

So while we think of a ‘utopia’ as being the opposite of a ‘dystopia’, a ‘utopia’ is actually a place that doesn’t exist, and a ‘eutopia’ is a perfect place, and the opposite of ‘dystopia’, a terrible place, but we might use ‘utopia’ to refer to a ‘eutopia’, as a ‘eutopia’ doesn’t exist.

All of this made me think: what other word pairs made using dys- and eu- are there? Do we sometimes only use one of the pair, like with ‘dystopia’ and ‘eutopia’? What other words can we make using these two elements?

Euphemism and Dysphemism

Nowadays the word ‘euphemism’ is used to mean ‘something that doesn’t mean what it literally means’, for the purpose of implied salacity, but it literally means ‘good speech’ – the idea being that a euphemism is some ‘good speech’ that you would say instead of some ‘bad speech’.

‘Dysphemism’, therefore, must be its opposite: ‘bad speech’. It’s a word you can find in dictionaries but it’s really not very common in Modern English. A euphemism is what you say instead of a dysphemism.

Eugenics and Dysgenics

Eugenics is the idea of controlling the reproduction of humans in order to increase the presence of desirable traits (something generally seen not only as immoral to attempt but also impossible to achieve).

‘Dysgenics’ is a word that exists, but it’s not very common. It isn’t a perfect opposite to ‘eugenics’ – it generally doesn’t mean ‘controlling the reproduction of humans in order to increase the presence of undesirable traits’ (as this is not a meaning that we really need a word for), but it could be used to mean that. It generally means ‘the study of things that have a negative effect on later generations’.

Eulogy and Dyslogy

A eulogy is something said in praise of someone – often after they’ve died.

‘Dyslogy’ is also a word that exists, but which isn’t often used. It means exactly what you’d expect it to mean: ‘dispraise’. (Although, since in Modern English, words ending in -logy are often names of subjects, ‘dyslogy’ could also, funnily, be ‘the study of bad things’.)

Euthanasia and Dysthanasia

‘Euthanasia’ literally means ‘a good death’, from eu-, meaning ‘good’, and thanatos, meaning ‘death’.

‘Dysthanasia’ would therefore mean ‘a bad death’. The word has some usage around the place – it’s not very concrete yet. The word could be particularly useful in fiction – whether a character has a good death or a bad death can drastically change the meaning or course of a story.


Not a word you think of as being related to the above, but it comes from eu-, meaning ‘good’, and kalyptos, meaning ‘covered’ (in reference to the buds of the plant).

A word such as ‘dyscalyptic’, therefore, could mean ‘not well covered’ – it could be used as a very indirect way of saying ‘not wearing any clothes’.

Dyspepsia and Eupepsia

‘Dyspepsia’ is a somewhat old-fashioned word for ‘indigestion’. ‘Eupepsia’ is a very rare word meaning the opposite: ‘good digestion’. ‘Dyspeptic’ also means ‘in a bad mood’, so ‘eupeptic’ could mean ‘in a good mood’.


This chemical element is the original ‘unobtainium’, as ‘dysprosium’ literally means ‘hard to access’. So ‘euprosium’ could be an element that is easy to obtain – or any substance that is very common. ‘Dysprositic’ and ‘euprositic’ could be adjectives for things that are hard and easy to find.

Words of Madness – Words that end with the Greek element ‘-mania’

-mania is a word element that appears in a number of Modern English words, denoting some kind of madness or craziness. It is relatively unchanged from its Greek origin: mania, meaning ‘madness’, ‘frenzy’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘mad passion’, ‘fury’.

Below are some existing words that end in -mania.

WordMeaning and Etymology
megalomania‘delusions of greatness’, from Greek megalo-, meaning ‘great’, ‘exaggerated’ – often nowadays used to mean ‘obsession with power’
kleptomania‘an obsession with stealing’, from Greek kleptes, meaning ‘thief’
bibliomania‘a madness for books’, ‘an obsession with collecting rare or unusual books’, from Greek biblio-, meaning ‘book’ – this one is very useful for writers
mythomanianot used to mean ‘an obsession with stories’ (though perhaps it should be – this is a better fit for the word etymologically), but instead ‘a compulsion to lie’ – from Greek mythos, meaning ‘speech’, ‘thought’, ‘word’, ‘discourse’, ‘story’, ‘myth’ 
pyromania‘an obsession with destroying things with fire’, from Greek pyro-, meaning ‘fire’
graphomania‘an obsession with writing’, from Greek graph-, meaning ‘writing’ – another good one for writers
phonomanianot ‘an obsession with sound’, as one might expect, but ‘an obsession with murder’, from Greek phonē, phonos, meaning ‘killing’, ‘murder’
logomania‘an obsession with words’, from Greek logos, meaning ‘speech’, ‘word’, ‘reason’ – another good one for writers
hippomania‘an obsession with horses’, from Greek hippo-, meaning ‘horse’
anthomania‘an obsession with flowers’, from Greek anthos, meaning ‘flower’
plutomania‘an obsession with wealth’, ‘a mad desire for wealth’, from Greek ploutos, meaning ‘wealth’ – a very useful one for the modern day
monomania‘an obsession with one thing’, from Greek monos, meaning ‘one’

All of these words can be changed into nouns that refer to a person who has the mania, of course. A hippomaniac is someone who really likes horses. An anthomaniac is someone who really likes flowers. They can also be changed to adjectives. If someone keeps buying books even though they haven’t read all the ones they’ve already got, they are being bibliomaniacal. 

But are there any other words, as yet unused, that could be formed in this way? The table below lists a few that I’ve thought of.

WordMeaning and Etymology 
ailuromania‘an obsession with cats’, from Greek ailouros, meaning ‘cat’ – this one could apply to a lot of us
cynomania‘an obsession with dogs’, from Greek kyno-, meaning ‘dog’
cinemamaniacould be ‘an obsession with movies’ or ‘an obsession with moving’, from Greek kinema, meaning ‘movement’ (from which we get the modern-day term ‘cinema’)
theatromania‘an obsession with the theatre’ – could be someone who really likes going to watch things at the theatre, or someone who really likes acting – from Greek theatron, from which we get the modern word ‘theatre’
technomania‘an obsession with new technology’ – using the modern element techno-, which was originally from Greek techne, meaning ‘art’, but the modern element is associated with electronic devices
ecomaniacould be ‘an obsession with one’s house – in particular an obsession with keeping it tidy’ – from Greek oikos, meaning ‘house’, ‘dwelling’, from which we also get ‘economy’

I might add more to this list 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

New Project: A Dictionary of British Place Names

I have started a new project today. In short, it is a small web-app giving information on the etymology of British place names. I’ve made it a sub-site of my main website – you can view it here: http://benjamintmilnes.com/dictionary-of-british-place-names/#/.

I decided to do this project quite spontaneously this morning. The idea’s been floating around in my head for a few days or so. I’m normally quite reluctant to start new projects of this kind nowadays – I have a lot of projects – too many, really – and each new project takes time away from the others. However, this project is quite valuable for the world-building for On The Subject Of Trolls, and it is relatively simple to do, so I decided to start it.

Amazingly, I’ve managed to get it to a ‘finished’ state in just a few hours. Now, when I say ‘finished’ here, I don’t necessarily mean absolutely complete in all ways. I find it useful to distinguish between different kinds of ‘finished’. A part of this project is actually researching and writing out the etymology for all or lots of British place names. (I may not do absolutely all British place names – I may only do a few hundred or a few thousand in total.) This is something that is very difficult to do all in one go – this is something that’s better to do gradually over time, so I don’t include this in what I mean by ‘finished’. Similarly, with any web-app, there are often hundreds of features that you could program into it – I don’t include these in ‘finished’ either. With projects like this, I generally consider them finished when I have something that I can put online, that works (even if it only has a limited number of features), that looks polished, and that contains well-formed data (even if it’s only a small amount of data). In the case of this project, I have managed to create 11 data files for place names, create the compiler (which takes those data files and outputs a JSON file that the web-app effectively uses as its database), and create a polished front-end.

So the web-app is now online and available. It describes the etymology of various British place names. In future you will be able to search for place names that have a particular suffix or that have a particular element in them. There are other fun features that it could have too – like rendering a map of Britain using the names that places had in a given century. It only contains a few entries so far, but I will add to that over time.

This is a very fun project to do. I have liked etymology for a long time – I can’t remember when it was that I started looking things up on etymonline.com several times a day – probably about seven or eight years ago – but it has been a fascination of mine for a long time. Place names is an area of etymology that is somewhat lacking online – it’s fun being able to create something new that’s useful.

Star Trek Picard – Series 1 Episode 1 – I didn’t hate it

I did not like Star Trek Discovery, and if any more series’ of it are made I won’t be watching them. Because of that I expected Star Trek Picard to be pretty shit too – they didn’t seem to improve from series one to series two of STD (yes that is what we’re calling it – if they didn’t want it to be called that, they should have thought about the name a bit more), so I didn’t expect STP to be an improvement over STD.

But actually I didn’t mind the first episode. There were many likeable things about it. I like the basic premise of the plot: perhaps there are more androids out there like Data, and perhaps they can reverse the image that androids have as a result of the Mars incident. I really liked the interview between Picard and whoever that woman was – the interviewer was a twat, which is quite realistic. I also liked the improved action sequences – that’s one of the things that I always find quite jarring when I watch Star Trek: The Next Generation – any kind of combat in that just looks painfully unpainful. In this first episode of STP, when characters hit each other, it actually looks like they’re hitting each other.

The stand-out moments in the episode were the scenes between Picard and Data – both Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner have still got it. I’m very impressed that Brent Spiner can so perfectly recreate the performance of Data. It is, though, unfortunate that these were the best parts of the episode – it kind of shows that none of the newer characters are as good as the old ones. It goes to show the magic that The Next Generation had.

It’s clear that this series is going for a serialised format, rather than an episodic one. It seems to have worked for the first episode. I’m not sure how well this works for Star Trek overall, though – it didn’t work for STD – as we see more episodes, we may find that it doesn’t work for STP either. The episodic format works well for Star Trek because of the basic premise of the Star Trek series’: some people in a spaceship exploring the galaxy. You can have an ensemble cast, and in each episode different members of the ensemble cast become the main characters in different, only loosely-connected stories. It’s an ideal format for developing rich characters and a rich universe – which is what Star Trek fans like. Star Trek Discovery departed from this, and that’s a big part of what made the series bad: Michael Burnham was the main character of the series and so the main character of every episode, but they still travelled from planet to planet – this meant that Michael Burnham had to be written as impossibly talented, and so was ultimately a Mary Sue. We were just following one impossibly brilliant character around as she solved every problem and everyone else just basked in her perfection. Had Star Trek Discovery had an ensemble cast, and in each episode we followed a different member of that cast, it would probably have been a lot more enjoyable. In fact the few times where STD did do this were often the best episodes.

So maybe STP will have the same problem; maybe it won’t. So far, it seems fine. And I think that’s because so far this show has been set on Earth, where it’s more believable that a single person could go around hunting for the answer to a mystery.

There were a few things that I didn’t like about the episode. The main one actually is the theme music. Fuck I hate that theme music. It’s not quite as bad as the theme music for STD, but it’s fairly close. I don’t know why there’s a desire in the world of television production at the moment to make this kind of theme music – it’s everywhere – but it’s stale, lifeless, and meaningless. And it’s completely wrong for Star Trek. Why can’t we have something with a proper fucking melody? It should be that after I’ve watched a single episode of a new Star Trek series, I can hum the theme tune – it should be that memorable. Bring back the militaristic, marching band music from old Star Trek. It worked for The Orville; it can bloody work for Star Trek Picard.

I also didn’t much like Isa Briones’ performance as Dahj. It was a bit over-the-top, and jarred with the other performances. Though she wasn’t helped by what was, at times, very cheap dialogue. It seems that the way TV dialogue is written nowadays is different to how it was written in the TNG era.

This episode also had some linguistic absurdities – much like STD, but far fewer, and slightly less egregious. At one point a character says ‘Flesh and blood android’ … so … a human then? Android just means ‘in the shape of a human’, so a flesh and blood thing in the shape of a human is just a human. When we talk about androids in reference to robots, we are using ‘android’ as an abbreviation of ‘android robot’ – ‘android’ is an adjective that has become a noun. So once again, it seems like the Star Trek writers aren’t doing their research. But on this occasion, I can overlook it, as perhaps by the year that this episode is supposed to be set, ‘android’ exclusively means a robot made of metal and wires.

So some good, some bad. It wasn’t the best episode of Star Trek I’ve ever seen – not by a long way – but it was far from the worst too.