Wikipedia for 'Chronometry' states:

Chronometry applies to electronic devices, while Horology refers to mechanical devices.

While on 'Horology', Wikipedia describes it in more detail, creating an ambiguity I'd like to clarify.

In current usage, horology refers mainly to the study of mechanical time-keeping devices, while chronometry more broadly includes electronic devices that have largely supplanted mechanical clocks for the best accuracy and precision in time-keeping.

While reading this, I'm unclear if this text is simply poorly worded or they are genuinely introducing the idea that the words have somewhat overlapping meanings and are interchangeable in some limited circumstances.

... chronometry more broadly includes electronic devices that have ...

Is 'chronometry' meant to be a more broad term encompasing both old 'horological' devices such as mechanical clocks and newer electronic devices?

What is the 'proper' distinction between the two terms? Is the chronometry article completely correct or is it more complicated than that?

Also if they are distinct, completely separate terms for completely different sets of things, is there a word that means 'horological and chronometrical devices', or is 'the study of timekeeping devices' my only unambiguous option?

  • The term "chronometer" has been used as the name for a highly accurate clock for at least 300 years, since well before the advent of electronic timekeeping. So certainly the term applies to both. But there is nothing (other than industry usage) to suggest that "horology" doesn't cover electronic clocks as well. It's not at all unusual to have two terms that effectively name a single family of technologies.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 22, 2015 at 4:19
  • I could be completely wrong, but while similar, I'm not sure that the word Chronometer, has any more to do with Chronometry than other similar words, such as Chronology, Chronemics, Chronobiology, Geochronology, Chronozone, etc. All of them relate to time in some way and thus use 'chrono' or 'chron' from the greek 'chronos' meaning 'time'
    – Techdragon
    Nov 22, 2015 at 4:57
  • Google Ngram finds some interesting things. I didn't know that they had electronic clocks in 1860, the date in the handwritten inscription of this book. And the link points directly to a definition of the term. There are dozens of other references, going back to the 1700s.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 22, 2015 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


If you want to know the true meaning of words, I suggest looking up the etymology, for this tells you the origin of the component parts of a word.

Whereas, the likes of Wikipedia often have various ‘in usage’ interpretations of meaning in context - which are often far from the original pure form and meaning.


Horology - is made from: hora (hours, or time) logy - study. So horology is ‘the study of time’. The origin is latin.

‘The study and measurement of time’ and ‘The making of clocks and watches’ is horology.

Chronometry - khronos - time (Greek), and metry - the measurement of. From the Latin ‘metria’ and the Greek ‘metron’. So Chronometry is ‘the measurement of time’. Or ‘time measurement’. And a Chronometer is ‘the measurer of time’ ie a clock.

Online definitions of ‘chronometry’ say ‘the art of accurate time measurement’ or ‘the science of accurate time measurement’.

But I think this is ‘internet embelishment’ and that it really means what it says, simply: ‘the measurement of time’

Hopefully this gives you something more to go on, than what is really ‘hearsay’ from the words ‘in use’ - the pure origin of the meanings of words.

Perhaps the two similar words exist because they arise from Latin - and from Greek.

Note that an early chronometer (in Ancient Greece) might have been - a sun-dial. It really just means ‘measure-time’. A ‘time-measurer’.

However, marketing for posh watches often describes same as ‘chronometers’ presumably to elevate them into something more exclusive and expensive. This might be where your confusion about ‘what kinds of clocks does each term cover’ may come from. But I think that might be a ‘red herring’ - a distraction.

Although - ‘horologist’ does evoke to me, a craftsman with an eyepiece, making mechanical watches.

So... if you want ‘the study of time and time-keeping devices’ - use ‘horology’.

If you want ‘devices that measure time’ - use ‘chronometers’.

If you want ‘the art and science of making time measurement devices’ use ‘Chronometry’.

If you want ‘clocks and watches, whether mechanical or electronic’, what’s wrong with simply using ‘clocks and watches’?

Horology - etymology https://www.google.com.sg/search?q=etymology+of+horology&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-sg&client=safari

Logy - etymology https://www.etymonline.com/word/-logy

Chronometer etymology https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chronometric

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