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late 14c., "love of learning," from Latin philologia "love of learning, love of letters, love of study, literary culture," from Greek philologia "love of discussion, learning, and literature; studiousness," from philo- "loving" (see philo-) + logos "word, speech" (see logos).
Meaning "science of language" is first attested 1716 (philologue "linguist" is from 1590s; philologer "linguistic scholar" is from 1650s); this confusing secondary sense has not been popular in the U.S., where linguistics is preferred. Related: Philological.
a term now rarely used but once applied to the study of language and literature. Nowadays a distinction is usually made between literary and linguistic scholarship, and the term philology, where used, means the study of language-i.e., linguistics (q.v.). It survives in the titles of a few learned journals that date to the 19th century. Comparative philology was a former name for what is now called comparative linguistics (q.v.).