Words beginning with “homo-“

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Although Latin is no longer part of the general curriculum, it persists in so many mottos and expressions that everyone probably knows a few words.

One commonly known Latin word is homo (“man”). Many Bible translations quote Pilate’s comment about Jesus in Latin: “Ecce Homo!” (“Behold the Man”).

And of course, anyone who has ever had a basic science course has learned the name of the modern human species: Homo sapiens (“Man the Wise”).

The first time I heard the word homosexual and learned its meaning, I assumed that the prefix homo– meant “man” since the word refers to a relationship between men. Only later did I learn the difference between Latin homo (“man”) and a Greek homo (>homos “same”). NOTE: “Man” in Greek is anthropos.

The word homosexual entered English via a translation of Krafft-Ebing’s “Psychopathia Sexualis. The second part of the word, sexual, is from a Late Latin word. Mixing Latin and Greek elements in this way annoyed another student of human sexuality:

” ‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it.” –H. Havelock Ellis, “Studies in Psychology,” 1897

Here are some other “homo” words you may come across in your reading.

homoerotic [hō’mō-ĭ-rŏt’ĭk] 1 Of or concerning homosexual love and desire. 2.Tending to arouse such desire.

homoeroticism hō’mō-ĭ-rŏt’ĭ-sĭz’əm] – A homoerotic quality or theme.

homogamous [hō-mŏg’ə-məs) – 1.Having one kind of flower on the same plant. 2.Having stamens and pistils that mature simultaneously.

homogamy (hə′mäg·ə·mē) (biology) Inbreeding due to isolation. (botany) Condition of having all flowers alike.

homograph [hŏm’ə-grăf’, hō’mə-] Homographs are words with different pronunciation, meanings and origins but the same spelling. They are not to be confused with homonyms or homophones.

homogeneous [hō’mə-jē’nē-əs, -jēn’yəs] 1.Of the same or similar nature or kind: “a tight-knit, homogeneous society” (James Fallows). 2.Uniform in structure or composition throughout. 3.Mathematics. Consisting of terms of the same degree or elements of the same dimension.

homogenise/homogenize (hə-mŏj’ə-nīz’, hō] 1.To reduce to particles and disperse throughout a fluid. 2.To make uniform in consistency, especially to render [milk] uniform in consistency by emulsifying the fat content.

homonym [hŏm’ə-nĭm’, hō’mə-] – The same name or word used to denote different things.

homophile [hō’mə-fīl’] coined 1960 to describe homosexuals in sociological and cultural terms as opposed to sexual behavior only. 1.Gay or lesbian. 2.Actively concerned with the rights of gay men or lesbians.

homophobia [hō’mə-fō’bē-ə] coined 1969 to describe reactions to efforts of homosexuals to gain mainstream representation. 1.Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men. 2. Behavior based on such a feeling. (related words homophobe, homophobic)

homophone [hŏm’ə-fōn’, hō’mə-] – One of two or more words, such as night and knight, that are pronounced the same but differ in
meaning, origin, and sometimes spelling.

homoplasy [hō’mə-plā’sē, -plăs’ē, hŏm’ə-] n. – Correspondence between parts or organs arising from evolutionary convergence.

homoplastic [hō’mə-plăs’tĭk, hŏm’ə-] – 1.Of, relating to, or exhibiting homoplasy. 2.Of, relating to, or derived from a different individual of the same species: a homoplastic graft.

Sharon on homographs
Daniel on homographs, homonyms, and homophones

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5 thoughts on “Words beginning with “homo-“”

  1. A brief word just to enhance what was said:

    In greek, “homos” is and works like an adjective (found in greek dictionaries in its triple form “homós, homé, homón”, i.e. masculin, feminin and neuter). In latin, “homo” is a masculin noun for “man, human being, person, individual, a member of a crew” (as Oxford Latin Dictionary quotes, found in its nominative and genitive form: “homo, hominis”). The similarity of these forms is a simple coincidence: the transliteration of the greek word (let’s recall that greek has its own alphabet…) happens to have the same written form as the latin word.

    In greek, both “ánthropos, ánthropoy” and “anér, ándra” are nouns form “man”, but the first is usually used for “man kind” and the second for “man” in opposition to “woman” (in greek, “gyné, gynaikós”).

  2. @1. Alexandre Piccolo – I was going to say exactly that; the rule of thumb i was taught is that ‘anthropos’ means man as opposed to god, whereas ‘aner/andros’ means man as opposed to woman. But you did the accents better! Out of interest, is it modern Greek in your comment?

  3. No, all I’ve said about greek should be taken as “classic greek” or “the athenian dialect” (which is what we usually learn in school’s greek manual) – and I must confess that I’ve never studied modern greek.

    Minutes after I’ve written my comment, I remembered that another nice way of talking about the “homo-” greek prefix is in opposition to “hetero-“, its “natural antonym”. The explanation may become clearer to some readers when using opposite words.

  4. @3. Thanx, Alexandre. Shows how badly rusty i am, using -ros instead of -ra for the genitive. I have no primer here to give me apparent expertise!

    Your hetero- point is a good one too.

  5. It seems all the words listed that begin with “homo” have something to do with “same”; few, actually I think none in your examples, have something to do with maleness or man or even mankind.

    Yet, if this is the case, it seems curious that the pronunciation for
    some words shows a “long” o for some words and a “short” o for others. I would have thought that homosexual and homophobia (long o words per your examples) would have a correct pronunciation like homogeneous and homonym (short o words). Would it be correct English and philology but perhaps politically incorrect to prefer the short o for all your examples?

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