According to this Wikipedia article, Richard Evans Schultes thought that psychedelic was a mongrel spelling of the word. The other option was phanerothyme. Apparently, they are both constructed from Greek words for "spirit" and "manifest". In the case of psychedelic, psyche- is Greek for spirit, -del- is derived from dēlos, which is Greek for manifest. In the case of phanerothyme, phanero- is Greek for manifest, and -thyme is Greek for spirit.

How come there are two spellings derived from Greek, and why was one of them considered a mongrel spelling by Schultes?

  • 1
    You just wanted to use the word mongrel. Am I right? :) Maybe he didn't know. Those words are unrelated, root-wise. [I wish my name had that accent mark. Swedish, right? So cute.]
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 20:29
  • @Lambie: "Swedish right?" As a pre-Covid-social-distancing, mountain-hiking, brunost-eating Norwegian that would leave any Swede in a cloud of snow down a ski track, I am mightily offended. gulps down a horn of mead
    – A. Kvåle
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 22:25
  • 1
    Oh my gosh: so very sorry. :) Really. It's that I could not tell just from the letter....[Is mead good? And do you really drink it? I'd like to try it. :)]
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 22:26
  • It's okay, so long as you agree that the Norwegians were the coolest Vikings.
    – A. Kvåle
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 22:27
  • 1
    Of course, I agree. The coolest.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 22:28

2 Answers 2


The sentence in the Wiki article is:

This mongrel spelling of the word 'psychedelic' was loathed by American ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, but championed by Timothy Leary, who thought it sounded better.

The reference Wiki cites for this statement explains that Schultes was objecting to the spelling, not the Greek derivation:

Schultes cautioned Leary that the word, meaning "mind manifester," was appropriate, but the spelling was incorrect. The proper Greek was "psychodelic," and Schultes was concerned lest a Harvard man be associated with the bastardization of a classical language. Leary suggested that "psychedelic" sounded better. Wade Davis; One River:One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest p.120 (1996)

The OED gives the etymology as:

Irregularly < ancient Greek ψυχή psyche n. + δηλοῦν to make manifest, reveal ( < δῆλος manifest, visible: see delomorphic adj.) + -ic suffix.

M-W and Lexico also label the formation as irregular.

Note that the other (non-adopted) proposal

"phanerothyme," from the Greek terms for "manifest" (φανερός) and "spirit" (θύμος)

begins instead with a combining form, "phanero-", as "psychodelic" would.

If the Wiki contributor had written, say, unorthodox spelling instead of mongrel spelling, perhaps readers wouldn't be confused.

  • 2
    It should perhaps be made explicit that whatever reasons there might be for and against using phanerothyme, they are largely independent of the arguably unusual morphology of psychedelic, which could be made to fit the more usual pattern by a simple substitution of o for e. While both θύμος and ψυχή can be translated as spirit, they are not interchangeable, so the choice between psychedelic/psychodelic and phanerothyme should depend on what the intended meaning is.
    – jsw29
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 15:56

It's not just the e that's a problem. -delic isn't right either. It should be psychodelotic.

See Nick Nicholas's erudite and amusing rant on Quora.


  1. Greek uses o as a linking vowel.
  2. delic is derived from the verb stem del-; the appropriate combining form would be -delot
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 19:56
  • "erudite and amusing" is an understatement about a fantastic rant. I always enjoy when a classicist enhances an argument with "herp derp" or "HULK SMASH". Thumbs up.
    – Yorik
    Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 20:36
  • @Yorik I second that, it was an hilarious read.
    – A. Kvåle
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 23:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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