In lexicography is the following claim correct?

To describe the origin of a word in a dictionary only you need either describe its 'etymology' (if that word has a single morpheme) or 'morphology' (if it is constructed by more than one morpheme) but not both.

  • No, it's not. It's far too general and vague, for one thing. For another, there's no context or language mentioned. Finally, while this is not ELU.SE, this is not grammatical English, and any correct statement in lexicography would have to start off by being grammatical in some language.
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 3:47
  • I don't understand what you're trying to ask. Can you explain further? Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 3:47
  • @GastonÜmlaut I rephrase the claim. Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 5:08

1 Answer 1



To some degree you're asking about the precise scope of the two terms, but as they are commonly understood:

  • Etymology is not restricted to monomorphemic words, or even to single words.
  • The morphology of a polymorphemic word is usually considered synchronically. The history (etymology) of its morphology is a separate matter

Also, I would tend to use morphology to refer to the structure of a derived or inflected word and not to a compound.

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