Etymology of Biology

Biology is, according to Merriam-Webster, a science that deals with all living matter.

A biologist (written word first discovered in 1805 or whereabouts; a combination of biology and ist) is something different.

There are cancer biologists, molecular biologists, and other sorts of biologists. These are experts in biology.

The first written record of the word biology was found in 1819. Biology is a combination of the words bio and logy.

Bio is a word that comes from the Ancient Greek βίος (bio) and it is a word that means life.

Logy comes from the Ancient Greek λογία (logia) and can mean branch of study or theory or science.

Thus, biology can be called the study of life, the theory of life, or the science of life.

What intrigues me the most is that we first found the word biologist, and only a few years later did we find the word biology. There is very little information in books or the Internet about the word biologist. 

In any case, as you’ll discover while studying the etymology of many English words, many words relating to anatomy and biology have origins in ancient Greece because, at the time, the Greeks possessed some of the most advanced knowledge of bodily systems, the cosmos, and life itself.

Check out the etymology of anatomy for a specific example of this.

There are almost three hundred words that end in logy in the English language, such as anthropology, cetology, kremlinology, nephrology, paleoecology, rheology, urology, vulcanology and zoology.


Barnhart, Robert. ed., Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, H.W. Wilson Co. 1988.

Lewis, Charlton. Elementary Latin Dictionary, Oxford. 1890.