What Does That Word Mean?

dictionary Every so often, genealogists will come across words that they have never seen before. I had this happen to me today, when I was reading a news article. I wondered about what that particular word actually meant. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources that can help me find out.

I am someone who loves to read. I find a news article, or blog, that catches my attention, and I immediately click on it. From there, I typically find other things that also look interesting to read. I end up bookmarking more pages than I am likely to ever find the time to read.

Today, I was reading an article on Salon.com that asked in interesting question. The title was “Why do we care about our ancestors?” I got about halfway through the first page, before I came across a word that I had never seen before. What on earth does “progonoplexia” mean?

Fortunately, the article itself provided a definition. It said that “progonoplexia” means “a deep obsession with ancestry”. It is a word that can be used to describe many genealogists. The discovery of this word, that I had never seen before, made me want to go play around with an online genealogy dictionary to see what other new words I could find.

Do you know what the word “prosopography” means? I didn’t. I learned that the word means “a study of the collective characteristics of an historic group based on an examination of the individuals within the group.”

How about the word “onomastics”? That one means “the study of the forms and origins of names”. The word “onomastics” is also known as “onomatalogy”. Another word that was new to me was the word “attestation”. This word is defined as “the administration of an oath or evidence given by a witness. Commonly used for military enlistment”.

The ROOTS Genealogical Dictionary has other mysterious sounding words to discover. A “manumission” is “a formal written act to free serfs or slaves”. This isn’t a word one would hear used in typical conversation today.

Here is one that looks like a typographical error. The word “tihtbysig” means “of bad repute”. If you can figure out how to pronounce it, then you could use it to describe that person at work who is always giving people a hard time. It is unlikely that he or she will figure out exactly what you mean.

This one made me laugh. “Transientbus” is an actual word that means “in transit from”. I would have guessed that this word meant a form of public transportation, like a city bus, that was populated mostly by people who were homeless. I have never once heard someone use the word “transientbus” in conversation!

Image by Chris Dlugosz on Flickr