Suffixes with the common part -phil- (-phile, -philia, -philic) are used to specify some kind of attraction or affinity to something, in particular the love or obsession with something. They are antonymic to suffixes -phob-.

Phil- (Philo-) may also be used as a prefix with a similar meaning.

I think I’ve told you about my love of etymology.

For me, there’s nothing as divine as true understanding — and the first barrier to understanding is not actually understanding the words.

Now, admittedly, you could go through life without ever knowing the roots of words. Most people do. But the added richness of knowing derivations, the additional nuance and flavour… well, to me it’s unrivalled!

Call me a nerd, but I just LOVE that little lip-formed ‘o’ that people make when I tell them the derivation of a word. Sometimes it’s a vapid ‘o’ of not-quite-understanding, but sometimes it’s of the omg-my-world-view-has-just-totally-changed variety.

To the case in point: philia, philos, phil — Greek (φίλος) for ‘beloved’ or ‘dear’. Now, you certainly know the suffix form — paedophile, cinephilia, Anglophilic. But the prefix form… ahhh!

Philosophy! A love of wisdom.

Philadelphia! Brotherly love.

Philanthropy! Love of fellow humans.

Philanderer! Loving or fond of men (but probably after someone called Philander).

But the word I was actually looking up, which led me to ‘phil’, is Philharmonic. It’s just one of those words that you see around — but I bet you didn’t know what it means. Until now! It literally means ‘the beloved sound’. Very simple, yet I bet most orchestras don’t even know why they’re called ‘philharmonic’.

There, done. That wasn’t too boring, was it?

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Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile


I am a tall, hairy, British writer who blogs about technology, photography, travel, and whatever else catches my eye.