from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A lover of learning.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A lover of learning; a scholar.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun archaic A lover of learning; a scholar.
  • noun An astrologer or predictor.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a lover of learning


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

First indubitably attested ante 1643 (perhaps antedated to 1611); from the Ancient Greek φιλομαθής (philomathēs, "fond of learning"), from φίλος (philos, "loving") + μάθη (mathē, “learning”; from μανθάνω, manthanō, “I learn”); compare opsimath, philomathematic, and polymath.



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  • TLS: 'Then we need to inspect the term “philomath�?. The OED suggests that the primary meaning was “a student, esp. of mathematics, natural philosophy, and the like�?. The entry continues, “formerly popularly applied to an astrologer or prognosticator�?. This is putting the cart before the horse. The once respectable word underwent a precipitous decline around the early eighteenth century, from which it never fully recovered. Commonly it was applied to quacks, often by way of self-description. Writing on fortune-tellers in the Spectator in 1712, Joseph Addison referred scornfully to “some prophetic Philomath�?. A year later, the Tory periodical the Examiner spoke of the craze for French prophets in London in the previous decade, and remarked that “not a Philomath or Orthodox Astrologer�? could be heard in the din: even the famous almanac-maker John Partridge gave up and resolved to die a second time. (This of course refers to Jonathan Swift’s Bickerstaff pamphlets, which had predicted the death of Partridge so convincingly that most people were taken in. The Tatler had described Partridge himself as a “Philomath�?.) Leading almanacs like that of John Wing continued to use the label in an unselfconscious way. One or two land-surveyors clung on to it, and people entering puzzle competitions in magazines used it as a pseudonym. But by 1714 mathematicians and inventors pushing a serious idea found it risky to own up to this profession. The word was left to dodgy projectors and snake-oil salesmen.

    'We could multiply examples from many sources. It was, however, Swift and his immediate circle who had done most to bring about this linguistic swerve. In 1709 a mock-prophecy appeared under the title of A Famous Prediction of Merlin, attributed to “T. N., Philomath�?, but really from the pen of Swift. In the following years the group of Scriblerian satirists, who also included Alexander Pope, John Gay and John Arbuthnot, wrote a series of pamphlets ridiculing vain and semi-literate projectors who promised the earth and delivered nothing. In 1717 “E. Parker, Philomath�? produced A Complete Key to the new Farce, call’d Three Hours after Marriage, a solemn pseudo-explication of the Scriblerians’ own farce.'

    November 19, 2008

  • If thou wouldst know a false philomath

    Attend to the habit of speech he hath:

    Who scorns the prosaic

    For the pompous archaic -

    He treadeth not true wisdom's path.

    January 4, 2016