I was attempting to find out the other day why cinema is spelt with a 'c' and not a 'k', as its etymology would seem to require. While doing so I noticed that the word cinema was used long before it could have had the current meaning, because cinema hadn't been invented. See here:-

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Looking for definitions in the online dictionaries turned up the current meaning, variously dated C19, 1895-1900 or 1909, and no other meaning.

So what did cinema mean in the earlier 19th Century, and briefly around 1705?

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    Looking at the 1705 to 1710 books, 2 are unavailable (so possibly could have cinema in them) and the other two don't have the word cinema in them. I think the early peak in the ngram is a mistake. Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 11:54
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    If you search within the single book representing the 1705 result, cinema doesn't appear. It's probably an OCR error or an indexing issue: Google Books isn't 100% reliable. Note too that the height of the spike is relative: there are fewer books to search, so a single result yields a greater percentage. By 1900, there are millions of books and the number containing cinema represents a smaller percentage. (You probably knew that, but it's worth saying)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 11:54
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    Searching before 1800 usually produces artefactual result like this. 1800 is a good cutoff date becauſe long S diſappeared about that time, and all S's became recognizable by OCR, inſtead of being detected as F's everywhere except at the ends of words. Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 13:06
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    I just checked through a print copy of the OED and it had no entry for Cinema but it did say this "Cinematic, -al, var of Kinematic -al, 1883 Athenium 3 Mar 281/3 Kinematics, or as it used to be called, cinematics, the name having been translated from the French cinematique, is the geometry of motion" so I guess (guess) that pre-cinema, the term referred to a field of math if it existed.
    – rosends
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 13:44
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    In physics course, you may have a unit on kinematics. Which studies and describes motion, I guess. The opposite would be statics, where you study or describe things not in motion, or where the motion is irrelevant.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


My guess would be an early version of kinematics, before the spelling settled down; see Etymology of 'kinematics'. (That only began around 1840, but as others have said, pre-19th century Google Books results are unreliable: all those steam-driven computers.)

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