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Orismology is the identification, specification, and description of technical terms. The word is constructed from the Greek: orismos (definition) and logos (word, reasoning, study). The word was coined by William Kirby and William Spence in their Introduction to Entomology in the early 1800s: "In the terminology, or what, to avoid the barbarism of a word compounded of Latin and Greek, [Kirby and Spence] would beg to call orismology of the science, they have endeavoured to introduce throughout a greater degree of precision and concinnity" in the terms used to talk about insects.[1] This approach to naming is particularly applied to disciplines in natural sciences like Kirby and Spence's entomology that depend upon classificatory schemes, such as taxonomies and ontologies, to organize, name, and address their subject matter.


The Imperial Dictionary (1882) reports: "that branch of natural history which relates to the explanation of the technical terms of the science."

The Oxford English Dictionary (1909) gives this: "rare. A name for the explanation of technical terms, or for such terms collectively; terminology."

Elk, Seymour B. (1998). "The Distinction between Terminology versus Orismology and Its Application to Mathematical Chemistry". Journal of Chemical Information and Computer Sciences. 38 (1): 54–57. doi:10.1021/ci970045s. ISSN 0095-2338.  [This paper must be purchased from the publisher.] In Elk's view, orismology includes etymology and should not be confused with terminology, which focuses on current and immediate interpretations of words. He gives this example: The drug name penicillin was coined by Alexander Fleming from the Latin for paintbrush, which is penicillus. Methicillin, a type of penicillin, gained its name by attaching the stem -cillin (from the United States Adopted Names Council's[2] list of stems) to a prefix meth which has no inherent meaning. The study of penicillin and methicillin individually would be an etymological study of terminology. However, the study of methicillin as its name derived from penicillin historically might best be described, according to Elk, as orismologic.


  1. ^ Kirby, William and William Spence (1828). An Introduction to Entomology: or, Elements of the Natural History of Insects. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green. Vol. 1, p. xv. and vol. 3, p. 527.
  2. ^ "United States Adopted Names". www.ama-assn.org. Retrieved 2015-11-22.