The annual conference of the World Economic Forum kicked off this week in the Swiss ski retreat of Davos. The event has been held every year since 1971; back then, the WEF was merely the “European Management Forum”, but the organisation became an international affair in 1987 and the four-day conference at Davos has been a major date in the calendar of world affairs ever since.
And in the midst of all of this, the word chrysology—coined in the nineteenth century, and defined as the “science” of wealth—popped up on HH this week.
Chrysology brings together two Greek roots, namely chrysos, meaning “gold” or “riches”, and the suffix –logia, which is itself derived from the Greek verb legein, meaning “to speak” (and is the origin, via Latin, of all the other –ologies in the English language).
That being said, this isn’t just another word sandwich brought together in modern times from classical roots to refer to a modern concept. Instead, the word chrysologia was used in Ancient Greek, as it is here, to refer to the act of quite literally talking about gold.
Chryso– isn’t the most familiar or productive of word roots in English today, but it nevertheless crops up in a handful of fairly obscure words like chrysography (“writing in gilt letters”), chrysopoetics (“the production of gold, especially from other base metals as an alchemist would attempt”) and chrysocarpous (“bearing yellow fruit”).
Chrysomela, likewise, is a genus of lustrous-coloured beetles. A chrsyobull is a literal “golden bull” or imperial decree once delivered by Byzantine emperors and other rulers in the European Middle Ages. And a chrysocracy is a government driven by accruing wealth—which would be led by a chrysocrat.