I am deciding on a spelling of "tessellation composed of tetrahedra" to use in my thesis.

There are four choices I know of

  1. Tetrahedralization with 3,530 results on Google Scholar and 25,800 on Google.
  2. Tetrahedrization with 1,130 and 10,300.
  3. Tetrahedronization with 155 and 4,520.
  4. Tetrahedration 118 and 420.

The way I understand it, the parts of the words are

  • tetra, meaning four,
  • -hedron, referring to faces, and it's corresponding adjective form hedral
  • -ize, verb-forming suffix, and
  • -ation, a suffix forming a noun out of an action.

I think I like tetrahedrization the most, as it's shorter and still reasonably widely used.

My question therefore is whether tetrahedrization is correct with respect to how we modify words coming from greek/latin, especially relative to the correctness of all the other choices.

I have a secondary question - the fact that tetrahedration is so uncommon surprised me, as I would otherwise prefer it due to its short length. Is there anything about it that's less suitable than the other candidates? Perhaps the fact that -ation would require something like tetahedr- to be an action, which would explain the rare occurence of tetrahedronization, too?

  • I'm new to this site and not a linguist, so any comments on how to improve the question would definitely be helpful.
    – Dahn
    Nov 17 '18 at 17:33
  • 1
    I'd go for the third one. In that case only, the operative word tetrahedron appears uncut and clearly meaningful. It's longer but that's generally better because it's less ambiguous, and in science you do not want ambiguity. If there is an established convention in the field, by all means go with it; but if not, then people unfamiliar with the word will read the title. You want them to understand what it means.
    – jlawler
    Nov 17 '18 at 21:10

Whatever the merits of the other options, I'd advise against anything beginning "tetrahedron-", because the "-on" is merely the Greek word's morphological suffix. Compare the following, where English borrows the Greek word complete with final "-on", but, when English adds suffixes, it drops that "-on".

  • phenomenon but phenomenal
  • skeleton but skeletal
  • pantheon but pantheistic, pantheism

IMO the notion of "tetrahedron" is recognisable without the final "-on" -- after all, we have "tetrahedral".

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