There are words like “philosophy”, “philology”, “philanthropy”; these have a form of “philia” at the beginning. Why don't these words have it at the end?

Also, there are words like “haemophilia”, “hydrophilia”, “paedophilia”; these have a form of “philia” at the end. Why don't these words have it at the beginning?

Why don't all words with a form of “philia” have it on the same side? What is the rule for deciding if it goes to the beginning or the end of the word?

  • 2
    Why do you suppose the philia root should always go at the same end? There are also words with anthropos at both ends: philanthrophy and anthropology; or logos at both ends: logophilia and philology. And so on. These are all Greek roots and they went together centuries (in some cases millennia) ago, long before there was English or printing or spelling. Questions that ask Why something in language is the way it is never have satisfying answers -- the answer is always "That's just the way it fell out." Dec 9, 2020 at 2:29
  • related: frogophile (has a good answer and relevante commentary about "-phile" suffix)
    – Conrado
    Dec 9, 2020 at 2:41
  • I think that a form of “philia” should always go to the same end in these cases because of consistency. In all words which I used as examples in the question, the relation is the same. It's a feeling (love) towards its object (wisdom, words, people, blood, water, children). The relations between the things described by the parts of the words “philanthropy” and “anthropology” are different. “Philanthropy” means love for people, and “anthropology” means words about (studying of) people.
    – matj1
    Dec 9, 2020 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


I am a Greek native speaker. I did some research and I found some info in Greek that I believe will help as the words you mention are Greek. So


  • 1a. in compound adjectives, identifies one who is characterized by love or a favourable attitude towards what the second compound expresses: philanthropist

  • b. characterizes the corresponding attitude or behavior(the example in Greek is liberalism but I can't think of something to explain it better.)

  • states that the determined behaviour or in general the tactics or politics of an individual or a group is characterized by a friendly attitude towards the people that expresses the second compound;
    e.g. philhellene

Now word-philo

  • b 'synthetic in compound names. 1. identifies the one who loves what the first synthetic expresses: a. (often science) for plants that thrive in the environment that implies the first synthetic(e.g. hydrophilic)

  • the person characterized by the pathological condition implied by the corresponding noun e.g. haemophilia

  • indicates the person who is characterized by a friendly attitude towards the people that expresses the first synthetic; anglophile also hydrophile, bibliophile

highly IMPORTANT you should know that the philo-word declares the healthy love for something and

the word-philo means too much love for something.(MOSTLY NOT IN A GOOD WAY such as paedophilia.)

I will provide some links in Greek (I apologize for that) in case you want something more. I hope I have shed some light.

  • 1
    I'm not convinced that X-phile words tend to have pejorative connotations. Being an audiophile or a cinephile or bibliophile aren't inherently bad things. I can't think of any others that are. Mar 17, 2021 at 20:37
  • Of course not always but in some cases it happens.
    – jsnjdhs
    Mar 17, 2021 at 20:38
  • @NuclearHoagie Of course not always but in some cases it happens. At least in Greek. e.g. necrophiliac. In Greek Wikipedia<el.wiktionary.org/wiki/-%CF%86%CE%B9%CE%BB%CE%BF%CF%82> it states "which is in a pathological state or is dependent on what the first synthetic indicates". This is one of many possible explanations. I just thought that I should point this out.
    – jsnjdhs
    Mar 17, 2021 at 20:48
  • @NuclearHoagie It's not universal, but the over-much usage for -philia (but not -phile or philo-) is pretty interesting. I could see an answer delving more into the diagnostic history of -philia to discuss that usage, whereas philo- and -phile don't have that history. Mar 17, 2021 at 21:00

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