I'm fairly certain I've heard/seen a word to describe someone who likes or studies lighthouses, similar to audiophile for someone who likes music. Does anyone know what it is?


As expected, I didn't find it in OED, but I've no doubt most such people would understand and accept the designation pharologist, derived from...

pharology - the scientific study of lighthouses and signal lights.

EDIT: I broke off for my tea earlier, before getting around to checking other online resources. I still can't find a current dictionary definition, but I see Wikipedia says...

Those who study or are enthused by lighthouses are known as pharologists

...and Collins dictionary has the word filed under "Pending Investigation"

As regards actual usage, it's worth noting that Google Books claims 970 instances of pharologist, and another 48 for the plural (for comparison, they have 3 hits for pharophile and 1 pharophiles).

If anyone wants the etymological background that told me what to look for, this is from OED...

pharos - classical Latin pharos, pharus lighthouse, spec. (as proper name) the lighthouse on the island of Pharos built for Ptolemy II of Egypt, in post-classical Latin also lamp, candelabrum (5th cent.) < Pharos , Pharus (ancient Greek Φάρος&), the name of an island off Alexandria (now a peninsula forming part of the city); compare Hellenistic Greek ϕάρος lighthouse.

Personally I'd say that makes it essentially Greek rather than Latin origin, but others may disagree.

  • "Phare" is the French, and probably Latin word for Lighthouse, so this makes sense. – Tom Au Jun 8 '14 at 21:25
  • @Tom: I only knew what to search for in the first place because of the ancient Greek lighthouse on Pharos. Having checked the etymology I'm now unsure whether to say the "origin" is Greek or Latin. So I'll amend the answer to include what seems relevant from OED - if anyone's interested, they can make their own decision starting from that information. – FumbleFingers Jun 8 '14 at 21:35
  • @Fumble: As you mentioned about my answer then I'm going to talk about yours. First of all, you should check the number of Google result carefully, Google doesn't reveal the actual number till the last result and it mixes up with "pharology" if you don't put the word in quotes. Actual result for pharaologist is 23(?). In the end, both pharologist an pharophile is not that common. [to be continued] – ermanen Jun 8 '14 at 21:57
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    Secondly, using pharologist for both the enthusiast and the one who studies it scientifically is a bit confusing. I don't know why some sources mention that and how it turned out that way. Pharophile makes more sense for the enthusiast. For example, there is a difference between audiophile and audiologist also. – ermanen Jun 8 '14 at 21:59
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    @ermanen: To be honest, I don't think there is a "right answer" here. OP asked for a word to describe someone who likes or studies lighthouses. I'm sure most people would agree -phile = one who likes, and -ologist = one who studies. Personally, I'd say I'm an audiophile, but I'm certainly not an audiologist. I suppose if OP would like to clarify exactly what he is thinking of, we might be better able to say one of our two offerings is better than the other. But the key point is any credible answer more or less has to be a derivative of pharos. – FumbleFingers Jun 8 '14 at 22:31

There is a neologism: pharophile. It is not a common word and it is not in dictionaries. But it is used colloquially.

This word applies to both who likes and studies lighthouses.

For example, this word is used in an Australian website about lighthouses:

We begin a series of "lessons" for lighthouse buffs (pharophiles) on lighthouse technology, physics and chemistry, as written and researched by our LoA Inc President, Denise Shultz, who in a former life was a chemical engineer. This first part of Pharology 101 discusses the mercury float, which was originally used in most lighthouses around the world to support and rotate the lens.

  • I'm not sure “colloquially” is the best word to describe the usage sphere of pharophile. Colloquially, I'd expect the other word (lighthouse buff) to be far more common. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 8 '14 at 23:21
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: But the entire "buff" thing is quite localised – Lightness Races in Orbit Jun 9 '14 at 0:25
  • @Light How so? Buff is used in this sense in both AmE, BrE, and AuE (and probably lots more). Hardly localised. But my point was just that in an informal, colloquial chat, pharophile is not a word I'd expect to hear. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 9 '14 at 8:35
  • I meant colloquially among lighthouse enthusiasts. "lighthouse enthusiast" is more common also but we were looking for a single word. – ermanen Jun 9 '14 at 14:14

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