Etymology of Library

A library, according to Merriam-Webster, is a place where reading materials (such as books) and various media (including sound and video) are accessible to people, for borrowing or use.

The English word library originates from Latin. The first written record of the word library is found in the late fourteenth century. The Latin word for book is libellus or libelli or liber. The word liber is very similar to the Spanish libro, which means book. These words later evolved into the Latin librarius (related to books, bookseller), and finally libraria (library). In Portuguese, a library is called a livraria.

The word library then became, in Old French, librairie; in Anglo-Norman: librarie; Old English: bōchūs (bookhouse). Soon enough it evolved into library, and that’s the word we use today.

Interestingly, English does not seem to have absorbed the ancient greek word βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothēke; library in English), made up of the words βιβλίον (biblíon; book in English) and θήκη (théke; closet in English). Bibliothēke is related to the ancient Phoenician city Byblos.

Very rarely, the English word bibliotheca (a collection or a list of books) will be used.

Some other words that start with biblio include:

  • Bibliography (a list of books by an author)
  • Bibliolater (either a person who absolutely loves books, or a person who takes the Bible completely literally)
  • Bibliolatry (loving the Bible a bit too much or an unhealthy obsession with books)
  • Bibliomancy (a form of divination that involves turning to a random page in the Bible and interpreting the results; word is similar to other forms of divination like auramancy, cartomancy, empyromancy, logomancy, oculomancy and uromancy)
  • Bibliomania (an obsession with acquiring lots of books)
  • Bibliophile (a person who loves to collect books, often for for their collector’s value)
  • Bibliotherapy (a psychiatric term for therapy that also involves reading)
  • Bibliotic (analysis of documents for the purpose of validating authorship)


Licoppe, Guy. Modern Latin. Calepinus Novus.