Most people spend part of every working day at some gainful employment, honest or otherwise, and in so doing often contribute their little mite to the progress of the world. We explore in this chapter the ideas behind people’s occupations.


By education and training, this practitioner is an expert in human behaviour – what makes people act as they do, how they perceive the world, why they have certain feelings, how their personalities were formed – in short, what makes them tick.

A psychologist.

Bones and blood vessels

This practitioner is a member of the profession that originated in 1874, when Andrew T. Still devised a drugless technique curing diseases by massage and other manipulative procedures, a technique based on the theory that illness may be caused by the undue pressure of displaced bones on nerves and blood vessels.

An osteopath


This practitioner treats minor foot ailments – corns, calluses, bunions, fallen arches, etc.

A chiropodist

Just what the doctor ordered

This professional is trained in the chemical composition of medical drugs; he or she makes up each compound and dispenses it to the patient. He or she may also give advice on straightforward medical problems.

A pharmacist

Getting back into shape

This practitioner supplements the orthopaedic surgeon’s work, by getting the patient fit again through a programme of carefully designed exercises.

A physiotherapist

A view of the interior

This practitioner operates the X-ray machine that gives the physician or surgeon a picture of what is relevant in the inside of the patient.

A radiographer

A calculated risk

This professional is employed by an insurance company, bank, or building society to calculate risks, and to work out appropriate premiums, dividends, annuities, etc.

An actuary

Understanding money

This professional may be an academic, or may work for a bank or other financial institution. He or she is an expert in the science of the way a country’s financial life works; inflation, unemployment, interest rates, balance of payments – these are the factors in this professional daily round.

An economist

Looking things over

This professional inspects buildings to determine their condition or value, or maps terrain before building work starts.

A surveyor

Bricks and mortar

This professional design buildings of any sort or size, whether made of stone, bricks, concrete, glass or whatever, or any combination of these. The inside layout and fittings of the buildings are also the concern of this professional.

An architect

Can you match the words?

chiropodist = foot healer

architect = designer of buildings and interiors

actuary = risk calculator

radiographer = X-ray expert

psychologist = one who studies human behaviour

pharmacist = drug dispenser

surveyor = assessor of buildings

osteopath = manipulator of bones

physiotherapist = exercise healer

economist = financial expert

Do you understand the words?

A psychologist treats corns and bunions.  No

An osteopath prescribes and fits glasses.  No

An economist predicts trends in inflation.  Yes

You go to a pharmacist to have your prescription made up.  Yes

A chiropodist specializes in straightening teeth.  No

A radiographer has a good knowledge of the skeleton.  Yes

You would go to an actuary for active exercises to get you fit.  No

An architect must be good at drawing.  Yes

A physiotherapist is an expert in child behaviour.  No

A surveyor is a kind of grocer.  No


Psychologist is built upon the same Greek root as psychiatrist – psyche, spirit, soul, or mind.  In psychiatrist, the combining form is iatreia, medical healing.  In psychologist, the combining form is logos, science or study; a psychologist, by etymology, is one who studies the mind.  A psychologist has a scientific rather than a medical training, and will specialize, e.g. in educational psychology (the study of why children do or don’t get on well at school), or industrial psychology (the study of the mental effects of the work-place).

The field is psychology, the adjective psychological.

Psyche is also an English word in its own right – it designates the mental life, the spiritual or non-physical aspects of one’s existence. The adjective psychic refers to phenomena or qualities that cannot be explained in purely physical terms.  People may be called psychic if they seem to possess a sixth sense, a special gift of mind reading, or any mysterious aptitudes that cannot be accounted for logically.  A person’s disturbance is psychic if it is emotional or mental, rather than physical.

Psyche combines the Greek pathos, suffering or disease, to form psychopathic, an adjective that describes someone suffering from a severe mental or emotional disorder.  A psychopath, sometimes called a psychopathic personality, appears to be lacking an inner moral censor, and often commits criminal acts, without anxiety or guilt, in order to obtain immediate gratification of desires.

The root psyche combines with Greek soma, body, to form psychosomatic, an adjective that delineates the powerful influence that the mind, especially the unconscious, has on the state of the body.  A psychosomatic disorder actually exists insofar as symptoms are concerned (headache, excessive urination, pains, paralysis, heart palpitations), yet there is no organic cause within the body.  The cause is within the psyche, the mind.  A related word is psychogenic, of psychic origin, from the Greek root genesis, origin.

Psychoanalysis relies on the technique of deeply, exhaustively probing into the unconscious, a technique developed by Sigmund Freud. In oversimplified terms, the general principle of psychoanalysis is to guide the patient to an awareness of the deep-seated, unconscious causes of anxieties, fears, conflicts, and tension.  Once the causes are found and thoroughly understood, claim the psychoanalysts, the anxieties, etc. may (but not necessarily) subsequently disappear.

There are many different schools of psychoanalysis apart from the classic Freudian version. Among them are the Jungian (after Carl Jung, who introduced the terms introvert and extrovert, see Session 23), the Kleinian (after Melanie Klein, specialist in child patients), and the Reichian (after Wilhelm Reich, who emphasized sex).

A less precise discipline is psychotherapy, which means more or less any means of treating psychological disorders through a verbal approach.  The Greek word therapeia, as noted earlier, means care or attendance of a non-medical sort.  A psychotherapist is not a doctor; nor are the practitioners of aromatherapy, treatment with fragrant oils (from Latin aroma, fragrance), or homeopathy, treatment with very small quantities of the substance that causes the same symptoms that the patient shows (from Greek homoio-, the same, plus pathos, disease).

Can you match the words?

psychology = study of the human mind and behaviour

psyche = one’s inner or mental life, or self-image

psychic = pertaining to the mind; extrasensory

psychopathy = mental or emotional disturbance

psychosomatic = describing the interaction of mind and body

psychogenic = originating in the mind or emotions

psychotherapy = general term for non-technical psychological treatment

psychopath = person lacking in social conscience or inner censor

Do you understand the words?

Psychological treatment aims at sharpening the intellect. No

Psychic phenomena can be explained on rational or physical grounds. No

Psychopathic personalities are normal and healthy. No

A psychosomatic symptom is caused by organic disease.  No

Every therapist uses psychoanalysis.  No

A psychogenic illness originates in the mind or emotions.  Yes

A psychotherapist must have a medical degree.  No

Psychoanalytically oriented therapy uses Freudian techniques. Yes

A psychopath is often a criminal.  Yes

Homeopathy is a branch of medicine. No


Bones, feet, and hands

Osteopath combines Greek osteon, bone, with pathos, suffering, disease.  Osteopathy was originally based on the theory that disease is caused by pressure of the bones on blood vessels and nerves.  An osteopathic practitioner is not a bone specialist, despite the misleading etymology (and despite the fact that many people with bad backs are treated by osteopaths) – and should not be confused with the orthopaedist, who is.

The chiropodist (Greek cheir, hand, spelt chiro– in English, plus pous, podos, foot) practises chiropody.  The term was coined in the days before labour-saving machinery and push-button devices, when people worked manually and developed calluses on their hands as well as on their feet.

The root pous, podos is also found in:

octopus, the eight-armed (or, as the etymology has it, eight-footed) sea creature (Greek okto, eight).

platypus, the strange water mammal with a duck’s bill, webbed feet, and a beaver-like tail that reproduces by laying eggs (Greek platy, broad, flat – hence, by etymology, a flatfoot).

podium, a speaker’s platform, etymologically a place for the feet. (The suffix –ium often signifies ‘place where’, as in gymnasium, stadium, auditorium, etc.)

tripod, a three-legged (or ‘footed’) stand for a camera or other device (tri-, three).

podiatrist, another name for a chiropodist.  The speciality is podiatry.

A medical chemist

A pharmacist is by training a scientist who knows about the chemical composition of drugs, and how to make them.  The derivation is from Greek pharmakon, a drug or potion.  The place where drugs are dispensed is a pharmacy.  An old word for a pharmacist is an apothecary, which is from the Greek for a store-cupboard (apotheke).

The scientist who studies the way drugs act within the body is a pharmacologist, of which you can work out the derivation.  The enormous multi-national industry that develops and manufactures drugs is called the pharmaceutical industry, from Greek pharmakeus, a person who sells drugs (or, a poisoner!).

Mens sana in corpore sano

The Latin tag above means ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’. But the derivation of physiotherapist is from Greek: physis, the natural form of something, hence the body, plus therapeia.  Physiotherapy is just one of a range of treatments carried out by skilled practitioners other than doctors.  Hydrotherapy is treatment with water, in which patients with weak joints or muscles do exercises in water, i.e. in a special pool (from Greek hydr-, water).  Chemotherapy – treatment with chemicals – and radiotherapy – treatment with radiation – are both used for patients recovering from cancer.

Radiation and writing

Radio– in combination does not mean radio as in radio broadcast, but radiation of any sort (sunlight, X-rays, etc.); the root is Latin radius, a ray (or a spoke in a wheel; think back to school geometry).

The radiographer is the person who utilizes X-rays (a form of radiation) to obtain pictures of the body’s interior.  The derivation is a Latin-Greek combination (disliked by purists) of Latin radius with Greek graphein, to write; thus radiography is literally ‘written with radiation’.

The root graphein comes up time and again in English words, in both technical and everyday language:

cardiograph (discussed in Session 33) – etymologically, a ‘heart writer’ (kardia, heart)

photograph – ‘written by light’ (Greek photos, light)

phonograph – ‘a ‘sound writer’ (Greek phone, sound); this word was the forerunner of gramophone, itself now obsolete

telegraph – a ‘distance writer (Greek tele-, far, at a distance)

biography – ‘life writing’ (Greek bios, life); hence autobiography, ‘self life writing’ (Greek auto-, oneself)

calligraphy – ‘beautiful writing’ (Greek kallos, beauty)

choreography – ‘dance writing’ (Greek khoros, dancing); this is the art of arranging the steps and formations of the dancers in a ballet.  Not that the same Greek root khoros has also given us chorus, a group of people singing; in an ancient Greek play the chorus would both dance and sing as they commented on the actions of the main characters.

Can you match the words?

podium = speaker’s platform

osteopathy = treatment by manipulation of bones

pharmacy = drugs workshop

chiropody = treatment of feet

platypus = egg-laying water mammal

pharmacology = the science of drug action

cardiograph = chart of heart function

choreography = ballet design

hydrotherapy = exercises in water

apothecary = person who makes up drugs

Do you understand the words?

Chiropody and podiatry are synonymous. Yes

A calligrapher makes a work of art out of written material.  Yes

A tripod has four legs.  No

A radiographer works in a hospital.  Yes

You take your prescription to the podium.  No

Hydrotherapy is a treatment for cancer. No

A pharmacist uses X-rays.  No

A famous person is likely to write an autobiography.  Yes

Physiotherapy involves physical exercises to bring the patient back to health. Yes

The pharmaceutical industry is concerned with farming.  No


How to calculate risks

We saw (Session 34) that a profession who works out risks and premiums for an insurance company, etc. is called an actuary.  This word comes to us straight from the Latin actuaries, a person who deals with acta, public business (or acts).  The adjective is actuarial.

Most of the English words that begin with act– are from this same family of Latin roots: ago, to do, with its past tense actus, something that is done.  Thus we have such as active, action, activity, all embodying this idea.

You will not confuse the actuary with the actor or the activist (someone whose political beliefs lead them to take militant action).

Money makes the world go round

The economist is the expert on the interlocking machinery of a country’s financial system.  The word is built on two useful Greek roots.  The first is oikos, home (words derived from this used to be writted oeco– in English; you might perhaps come across a very old book in which economist was spelt oeconomist).  The science (or perhaps it should be called an art) practised by economists is economics.

We find the same root in ecology, which literally means ‘home science’ but actually means the study of how living things fit together in their ‘home’, i.e. their natural environment.

Teaser questions for the amateur etymologist

Latin octoginta is related to Greek okto, eight (as in octopus).  How old is an octogenarian?

Answer: Eighty to eighty-nine years old. From Latin octoginta, eighty.  People of other ages are as follows: (a) 50-59: quinquagenarian.  (b) 60-69: sexagenarian.  (c) 70-79: septuagenarian.  (d) 90-99: nonagenarian.

When practicing a difficult part, a musician is ruled by a device called a metronome.  What is its derivation, and its literal meaning?

Answer: Metronome is derived from Greek metron, measurement, and nomos, rule or law.  Literally, therefore, ‘rule by measurement’, it is a machine (nowadays usually electronic) that emits a regular beat to help the musician to keep time.

If the suffix –mancy comes from a Greek word meaning foretelling or prediction, can you work out what chiromancy must be?

Answer: Chiromancy is the art of predicting the future by reading the hand (Greek chiro-, hand).


You remember that the derivation of sympathize is from Greek sym-, with, a pathos, feeling.  Can you guess what the word is for ‘feeling at a distance’?

Answer: Telepathy, from Greek tele-, far, at a distance.  The adjective is telepathic.

Can you guess what the science of psychometrics is concerned with, and what its methods are?

Answer: Psychometrics is the science of measuring aspects of the personality with tests, questionnaires, and so forth.  It is derived from Greek psyche, soul, plus metron, measurement.  The practitioner is either a psycho-metrician or a psycho-metrist.


The other root in economist is Greek nomos, rule or law.  Thus economics is the study of the rules that make our country ‘tick’.  A number of areas of knowledge have names ending in –nomy, as for instance agronomy, from Latin ager (a field), knowledge of the rules of farming (as distinct from agriculture which is actually doing it).

Within the science of economics, a person might specialize in econometrics, which is the study of key economic measurements, as for example the rate of inflation or the public sector borrowing requirement, and how these relate to each other mathematically.  Here we have a third Greek root, metron, a measurement.

This is a very useful root, occurring in many English words, often as the suffix –meter, something that measures:

thermometer – ‘heat measurer’ (Greek therme, heat).

barometer – literally, ‘weight measurer’ (Greek baros, weight), but actually a device to measure atmospheric pressure.

chronometer – ‘time measurer’, used of something more accurate and technical than a mere wristwatch (Greek chromos, time).

anemometer – ‘wind measurer’ (Greek anemos, wind).

Bricks and mortar

The person who prepares plans of building sites is called a surveyor.  This word is from Latin origins: the prefix sur– is derived from Latin super, meaning over, the –vey– is from video, to see.  So a surveyor is a person who looks over the site.  The same elements are also found in supervisor, a person who ‘oversees’ or is in charge of something.

Usually English words that are based on video, to see, have it in its past form, –vise or –vision (i.e. something seen).  Thus we have revise, to look at something again (prefix re-, again), visionary, a person with foresight or far-reaching ideals, or television, something that sees at a distance (a Greek-Latin combination; Greek tele-, far).

But the –vey– form of video does crop up elsewhere.  We have it in purveyor, a person who supplies food and provisions.  In derivation this word is identical to one who provides, i.e. one who foresees the need for something (Latin prefix pro-, before, plus videre).  It is a good word to use figuratively: ‘A notorious purveyor of misinformation.’

As you know, the professional who designs buildings is an architect.  This time the derivation is Greek.  The root arch– means chief, or ruler (and we have met it before, in words such as matriarch – see Session 15); it is familiar in such formations as archbishop, the chief bishop, or archangel.  The other root is Greek tekton, a workman, which in turn is derived from the immensely important Greek word tekhne, meaning skill, art, craftsmanship, etc.  From it we get all our words such as technology (literally, the science of skills), technician (a skilled person), and technophobia (fear of technical things – see Appendix).

And to this Session with a bang – pyrotechnics – fireworks!  (From Greek pyr-, fire.)

Can you match the words?

purveyor = someone who sells provisions

barometer = pressure gauge

pyrotechnics = fireworks

visionary = an idealist

econometrics = study of financial statistics

ecology = study of plants and animals in their environment

supervisor = foreman

actuary = person who calculates risks

chronometer = accurate timepiece

activist = political agitator

Do you understand the words?

Ecology is the study of farming. No

An actuary is interested in politics. No

You use a barometer to forecast a change in the weather.  Yes

To study econometrics you need to be good at mathematics.  Yes

A purveyor is a kind of legal executive. No

A visionary is a person in charge at the works.  No

A matriarch is a female architect. No

Economics is the science of finance. Yes

When you revise, you take a second look at what you have studied.  Yes

Technophobia is fear of spiders. No

Getting used to new words

I have already alerted you to the intimate relationship between reading and vocabulary building. Good books and the better magazines will not only acquaint you with a host of new ideas (and, therefore, new words, since every word is the verbalization of an idea), but also will help you gain a more complete and a richer understanding of hundreds of words you are learning through your work in this material.  If you have been doing a sufficient amount of simulating reading – and that means, at minimum, several magazines a week and at least three books of non-fiction a month – you have been meeting, constantly, over and over again, the new words you have been learning in these pages.  Every such encounter is like seeing an old friend in a new place.


©Dodgsons KingsWay Sanctuary Church, 1973.


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