Word of the Week: Taphophilia

It's a mouthful of a word, but taphophilia simply means a love for cemeteries. Okay, maybe not so simple – not everybody loves cemeteries or even understands why someone else would. What is it about cemeteries that inspires a person to become a taphophile?

For some, it's the history: Each gravestone contains a tiny snapshot of a life, and when all the snapshots in a cemetery are added together, they can form a mosaic of local events, people and places. A local history buff can find hours of fascination in wandering the lanes of a cemetery and reading the stones. For others, cemeteries are beautiful, full of unique sculpture and carefully tended botanical life. Some genealogists frequent cemeteries in search of more information on their ancestors. There are photographers who delight in the atmosphere of a cemetery on a wintry afternoon, and there are even joggers who take their workout to the cemetery for a quiet place to run.

The word comes from two Greek roots: "taphos" means "grave" or "funeral," and "philia" means "love." Taphophilia can extend beyond a love for cemeteries to include all the trappings of funerals and memorialization, but it most often refers more specifically to cemeteries.