By Deane Barker

Definition: the study of causes or origins

In particular, “medical etiology” concerns discovering the causes of diseases or conditions, however the word can refer to research into the cause of anything.

I got to wondering if the word “etiologist” is an actual thing (note: according to the spellcheck in the editor in which I am writing now, it’s a misspelled word, though “etiology” is fine).

I did find definitions for “etiologist,” but they all basically noted that they were just a form of “etiology.” And this makes sense, because to be someone who researches for the caused of something, you would need to qualify “etiologist” with whatever discipline you worked in – and then those particular jobs usually have another, specific title anyway.

For example, you could be a “medical etiologist,” but there are other words specifically for that. Someone looking for a cause of death is a “pathologist.” Someone looking for the source of a disease is an “epidemiologist.” Being just a generic “etiologist” doesn’t seem to be an actual word.

I did a Google Books NGram search for * etiologist, to see if I could find what word commonly preceded it, but all I got were “the etiologist” or “an etiologist.”

(Also of note: usage of the word peaked in the second half of the 19th century, and has been relatively limited since then.)

Why I Looked It Up

In a book about the athletic performance of Black athletes:

In particular, I would like to see addressed the origins – the etiology – of African American athletic domination.

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