12

In the collection of essays, God in the Dock, C. S. Lewis uses the word "mellontolatry," which is defined as "worship of the future." This is the first instance of the word I can find.

In other places, Lewis makes up words, but he explicitly says that he is coining a term. E.g, "Bulverism." But he uses "mellontolatry" as if it were a known, but rare, word.

A few years ago, I went on a determined hunt for the origin of this word. OED had nothing. The UT Austin library had a 7 or 8 volume dictionary and it had nothing. I enlisted one of the senior librarians (whose eyes lit up at the challenge) in the hunt. We found nothing preceding Lewis.

Today, Google have me this hit:

http://worship.wikia.com/wiki/Mellontolatry

which also lists:

Pareltholatry – worship of the past

Nynolatry – worship of the present

Chronolatry – worship of time

and, frankly, I file that website under "too silly." All other hits derive from Lewis.

So that's my question: Did Lewis coin this word? If not, where did it come from?

  • 2
    I have no idea whether Lewis coined the word, but if he did, he clearly did so quite solidly: the Greek verb μέλλω méllō means ‘be destined to, be about to’ and generally deals with the future. Mellontolatry would be as if from μελλοντολατρεία mellontolatreía, which would be the present participle active μέλλων méllōn ‘being destined to’ + λατρεία latreía ‘worship’ (as in idolatry, haplologised from idololatry). So it’s ‘worship of that which is destined to be (= the future)’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 at 12:42
  • 1
    Similarly, pareltholatry, nynolatry and chronolatry are perfectly well-formed, being based, respectively, on the aorist stem (ῆλθ- ēlth-) of the verb παρέρχομαι parérchomai ‘pass (by)’, the adverb νυν nyn ‘now’, and the noun χρόνος chrónos ‘time’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 at 12:47
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thanks. I have a friend who is a theologian and knows koine quite well. He didn't think the word was Greek, but recognized the pieces. I suppose it could be a classical Greek word(?) – B. Goddard Feb 1 at 13:01
  • 2
    @B.Goddard No, I don’t think it’s a word in Greek (if it’s not on Perseus, it’s fairly safe to say it didn’t exist in Classical or Epic Greek, at least); it was probably coined in English, but seemingly by someone who knew what they were doing – which may have been Lewis, of course. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 at 15:37
  • 3
    Lewis first dropped the term in The Spectator (7 Feb. 1941) in an article called Evil and God. The way he uses it suggests he does need to gloss it, and that it may be a coinage for the Greek-knowing readers in his audience: "Mellontolatry, or the worship of the future, is a fuddled religion." – TaliesinMerlin Feb 1 at 16:05
1

One doesn't need to get verbose in an answer to this one. The simplest and most direct is to examine C.S. Lewis himself. He made up 1000s of words in writing his children's stories, and gave credit for their creation to many of his characters or simply imbedded them in the setting of his works. Each of his creations are vividly constructed as this one of his is (mellontolatry) - this idolatry of worship of the future as a god. The greek examination reveals the depth of Lewis - he was well read in Samuel Johnson, to Plutarch and read many literary works in their original language, including Medieval English.

  • 1
    kuyperian.com/c-s-lewis-the-unraveling-of-materialism gives an explicit quotation from the essay. The explanation of the term used lends credence to the view that Lewis would not have expected readers to know the word [because it did not exist], it certainly is his style, almost any reference to C.S. Lewis must include terms he coined himself. – Giu Piete Feb 24 at 18:41
0

My knowledge in the Greek as well as the ancient Greek language, leads me to the conclusion, that the word mellontolatry, is derived, from the ancienct greek word "μελλον", meaning future, in combination, with the ancient greek word "λατρεια", which means worship. The word "μελλον" is pronounced in a similar fashion, to that of mellon and the word "λατρεια", in a like the fiactionary word "latria". Combined together, they mean, worship, of the future, in other words, mellontolatry. So, the origin, of this word, is from ancient greece.

  • Simmilarly, the word xenophobia, is also derived from the ancient greek words "ξενο" and "φοβια", which respectively mean, stranger and phobia, hence, the words meaning, being, a person which is afraid of strangers – kenith Feb 6 at 18:31
  • 3
    This doesn’t really answer the question – yes, the word is clearly made up of Greek building blocks, but that doesn’t say anything about when, where or by whom it was coined. It seems unlikely that the word actually goes back to Ancient Greek. In Modern Greek, μέλλον is simply the common noun meaning ‘future’, but in Ancient Greek, it’s only an occasionally nominalised neuter form of the present participle of a verb; it’s not really a noun that means ‘future’ as such. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 at 20:43
  • I absolutely agree. It seems unlikely that the word actually goes back to Ancient Greek. The word "mellon - μέλλον" is only an occasionally nominalised neuter form of the present participle of a verb; it’s not really a noun that means ‘future’ as such. – Joanna Feb 14 at 20:16

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.