English Language Blog

What is an –ology? Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 in English Grammar, English Language

Yesterday I discussed the suffix –ism and a number of different nouns that end with this suffix.  A similar, but not identical, suffix is –ology.  So, what is an –ology?  The suffix –ology is added to a noun to denote that this is a subject of study or a branch of knowledge.  Most words that end in –ology are subjects that have been studied for many years, hundreds, and thousands of years sometimes.  When a new branch of knowledge or area of study is created a new –ology word is created.  For example, the branch of study called “computer technology” is not a subject that has been studied for hundreds of years, but it is the study of a specific area in science, computers.  When people first started studying computers, they had to come up with a word for what this study would be called, and they decided upon, computer technology.

Sometimes people use this suffix playfully to indicate the study of something that isn’t a branch of knowledge, but just something that the person is trying to understand.  For example, if my boyfriend was frustrated with me and wasn’t sure what I wanted or what I was trying to say, he might jokingly say: “I need a course in Erinology!  I can’t figure you out.”  You can have fun with this suffix in this way, just be aware sometimes people may not understand exactly what you are trying to say and you may have to explain yourself if you start to use the suffix in non-conventional ways.

I am sure you are familiar with many words that end in –ology from your studies in school.  Common –ology words are ‘biology,’ ‘psychology,’ ‘anthropology,’ etc.  Below are some –ology words that you may be less familiar with from your studies.  Many of these are somewhat technical words that you may not encounter in casual speech, but they are likely to show up in academic or medical settings.

Ecology – The study of the interaction of people with their environment.
Geology – The science that deals with the earth’s physical structure and substances.
Meteorology – The study of the climate and weather of a region and the study of forecasting the weather.
Physiology – The branch of biology that deals with the normal functions of living organisms and their parts.
Reflexology – The scientific study of reflex actions and how they affect behavior.
Seismology – The branch of science concerned with earthquakes and related phenomena.
Toxicology – The branch of science concerned with the nature, effects, and detection of poisons.

Can you think of any other –ology words?  If so, leave them as a comment to this post.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.