The “Anthropos” Family

By Mark Nichol

The Greek noun anthropos, meaning “male human being” or “man,” is the root of some familiar and not-so-familiar English words, which are listed and defined below.

The best known of these are likely anthropology, which literally means “the study of humans” and refers to just that—especially in a cultural and social context (and, in a distinct theological sense, to their nature and origin)—and philanthropy (literally, “love for man”) which pertains generally to promoting the welfare of humans but usually is employed in contexts in which funding or gifts is provided for humanitarian purposes (or for cultural enrichment). The adjectival forms are anthropological and philanthropic, respectively, and those who practice such endeavors are anthropologists and philanthropists.

A misanthrope, meanwhile, is unlikely to undertake either one pursuit; a misanthropic person (who practices misanthropy) has contempt or hatred for humans. Apanthropy, meanwhile, refers to the love of solitude or an aversion to human interaction.

Anthropic means “relating to humans or to their time on Earth”; the term is part of the phrase “anthropic principle,” which refers to the belief that the universe, from the subatomic level to the scale of galaxies, was designed with humans in mind, though the conditions that make human life possible also make all known life-forms possible. (This is also known as the strong anthropic principle, to distinguish it from the weak anthropic principle, which reasons that this idea was able to be formulated only because a life-friendly universe allows sentient minds to observe and reflect on it.)

The phenomenon of ascribing human attributes or forms to nonhumans, whether animals, gods, or objects, or to nature, is anthropomorphism (literally, “the idea of human form”). Cartoon characters who display human characteristics, therefore, are anthropomorphic. Anthropathy (literally, “human feelings”), meanwhile, is a related concept: that divine beings have emotions.

An anthropoid is a primate that more or less resembles a human being, though the term has also been used pejoratively to describe people of inferior breeding or intelligence. On a related note, pithecanthropus (“ape man”) is the label for one of two extinct anthropoid species.

Zoanthropy is a mental disorder in which a person believes that he or she has become an animal and behaves like one; lycanthropy originally referred to a delusion that one is a wolf, though it usually is associated with werewolf folklore. Anthropophagy (“man eating”) is a fancy synonym for cannibalism. (One who practices cannibalism is anthropophagous.)

Anthropolatry is deification or worship of a human. By contrast, psilanthropism (“the idea of being a mere human”) is a rejection of the divinity of Jesus.

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