While researching the source and use of mathematical formulas to calculate the radius of the earth, I came across this passage:

Mitchell also showed that the mean radius of the earth was defined by the ancient geodeters as being the meridian circumference divided by 44/7...

Online dictionary resources held no reference to the word geodeter. Using Google returned 4 indexed page results that contained an exact match, but the original language of each page is Swedish.

Is geodeter an actual word? If so, what is the meaning and etymology of the word?

Source passage

  • 1
    A good example is provided by Puissant, a distinguished geodeter and cartographer. But many if not most instances of the word in Google Books are actually misclassified German texts, so make of that what you will. – FumbleFingers Mar 29 '16 at 14:17
  • 2
    The Oxford English Dictionary doesn't list geodeter, but it does have the similar word geodesist. – herisson Mar 29 '16 at 14:26
  • 1
    "Using Google returned 4 indexed page results". In the UK, Google gives 3800 hits, mostly in Swedish, including a Wikipedia "category" page, dictionary entries, etc. The Swedish-English dictionary dict.com/?t=se&set=_ense&w=geodeter gives the root word "geodet" = "geodesist, surveyor" – alephzero Mar 29 '16 at 21:37
  • @alephzero 4 indexed page results with an exact word match. i should have clarified the difference. i'll edit the post. thanks – andrewdleach Mar 29 '16 at 21:54

The correct term is geodesist not geodeter (M-W) from geodesy:

Geodesy (n.) :

  • 1560s, "the art of land surveying," from Modern Latin geodaesia, from Greek geodaisia "division of the earth;" ultimately from ge "earth" (see Gaia) + stem of daiein "to divide," from PIE *dai-, extended form of root *da- "to divide."

  • In modern use it refers to mathematical calculations derived from measuring large portions of the earth's surface. In this sense, in reference to structures, from 1936.


See also Ngram: geodesy, geodesist, geodeter.

  • I think it might be worth adding a link from NOAA. – Ben Hocking Mar 29 '16 at 22:02

From NOAA's article What Is Geodesy?


The science of accurately measuring and understanding three fundamental properties of the Earth: its geometric shape, its orientation in space, and its gravity field— as well as the changes of these properties with time.

So geodeters are those people who practice geodesy: literally they who measure the Earth.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.