As a standalone word, a graph is a diagram showing the relation between variable quantities – usually measured along a pair of axes at right angles. In Linguistics, it refers to a visual symbol representing a unit of sound or other feature of speech.
But it also appears in a combined form as a root of many other words. Most of these appear in everyday English, while others are quite rare.
The origin is the Greek graphē meaning ‘writing, drawing’. It’s not surprising then that most of the words it appears in denote something written or drawn in a specific way, or an instrument that records.
So, off the top of your head, how many words can you think of with graph as their root?
The list below isn’t meant to be definitive, but it contains nearly 50…
Words with ‘graph’ as their root
autograph: a signature of a famous or admired person
dysgraphia: inability to write coherently or legibly
grapheme: the smallest meaningful contrastive unit in a writing system (as used in Linguistics)
graphic: of/relating to visual art; of/in the form of a graph; giving vividly explicit detail; a graphical item on a screen or stored as data
graphicacy: the ability to understand maps or graphs
graphics: the products of the graphic arts; the use of diagrams in calculation and design; visual images produced or manipulated by computer processing
graphite: a grey, crystalline form of carbon used as a solid lubricant, in pencils or in nuclear reactors
graphology: the study of handwriting, primarily to infer a person’s character
graphomania: a mania for writing
graphospasm: writer’s cramp, when composing the old-fashioned way with a pen or pencil
hypergraphia: an overwhelming desire to write (a genuine mental condition when used in its specific medical sense)
infographic: a visual representation of information or data, e.g. as a chart or diagram
lexicographer: a compiler or writer of a dictionary
monograph: a detailed written study of a single specialised subject or an aspect of it
photograph: a picture made using a camera
pictograph: a pictorial symbol for a word or phrase (the earliest known form of writing, with examples discovered in Egypt and Mesopotamia from before 3000 BC)
seismograph: an instrument that measures and records details of earthquakes
Words ending in ‘graphy’
And then there are all the words ending in –graphy, which fall into three main camps.
Some relate directly to writing, whether that’s the techniques used or the subject matter addressed. Others relate to the production of images, graphs or diagrams. Plus there are numerous variants meaning a descriptive science or study (far too many to include them all here).
autobiography: an account of one’s own life
bibliography: a list of sources referred to in a particular work
biography: an account of someone else’s life
blogography: the expression of self through writing in the blogosphere
cacography: bad handwriting or spelling
calligraphy: the art of decorative handwriting
cartography: the science of drawing maps or charts
chirography: handwriting; the art of fortune telling by examining the hand
cryptography: the art of writing or deciphering coded messages
epigraphy: the interpretation of ancient inscriptions
ethnography: the study of different peoples and cultures
fauxtography: misleading presentation of images for propagandistic or otherwise ulterior purposes (blend of faux and photography)
geography: the study of the earth’s physical features and their relation to human populations
hagiography: a biography idealising its subject
haplography: inadvertent omission of a letter or letters in writing, e.g. mispell for misspell
holography: the study or production of holograms
iconography: visual images and symbols used in a work of art
lithography: a printing process
orthography: the act or study of correct spelling
palaeography: the study of ancient writing
pasigraphy: a universal system of writing, using characters or numbers rather than words
pornography: writing and images designed to stimulate sexual excitement
psaligraphy: the art of cutting paper silhouettes
punctography: a system of writing using dots (as in Braille)
radiography: the production of images by X-rays, etc
scoteinography: illegible handwriting
steganography: hiding a message so that only the sender and receiver know of its existence, e.g. using invisible ink
stenography: writing and transcribing shorthand
tachygraphy: shorthand, especially of ancient or medieval scribes
tomography: a technique for producing a cross-section image of the body
topography: the arrangement of physical features of an area
typography: the process of setting type; the style of printed matter
The word graffiti comes from the Italian graffio, ‘a scratch’. This also gives us sgrafitto – a pottery decorating technique produced by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting colour.
Hopefully you’ve discovered a few new interesting words with ‘graph’ as their root in amongst this lot. Any major ones I’ve missed?