Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Chiro- - A Handy Little Word

A human hand
Photo by Nebojsa


Combining form. Also cheiro-; (before a vowel) chir-, cheir-.
[Greek kheiro-, from kheir hand.]

Of the hand.

While it might be tempting to think that chiro- only finds standard use as a prefix in chiropractor (a person that practises manipulative treatment of mechanical disorders of the joints and spine), there is in fact an abundance of handy and often nutty chiro- words in English for us to choose from:

Chirognomy, for example, is the supposed estimation of one's character by the an inspection of the hand, and a chirognomist is one that practises such waffle. 

Rather more respectable is the chirograph, which is a formal handwritten document, and a chirographer, which is a copying clerk or a person that employs handwriting, probably in their own chirography which is the style or character of handwriting. 

If you really want to study hands in-depth, then your branch of knowledge will be chirology, which is also an obsolete word for the use of manual sign language.

And let's not forget (aargh!) chiromancy, which is divination by reading the hand (palmistry).

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, the word chiropodist also makes use of the chiro- prefix, being a combination of the Greek for 'hand' and (pod-) 'foot', because (supposedly) it's with his hands that a chiropodist examines your plates of meat.

Do you know of any other chiro- words?

Do please leave your most digital comments in the handy little box below.


  1. I've got a good old obsolete chiro- word:
    chiroponal - involving manual labour.
    (I'm still researching it, but I think the last part is from Greek ponos (toil, labour) +al)

    1. I like it!

      Chiroponal - it even sounds like hard work.