wine : oenophile :: beer : X

We start with wine, a drink whose enthusiasts, knowledgable fans, aficionados, connoisseurs, and the like are legion, so not surprisingly we have a name for them, with alternative spellings: oenophiles / enophiles. Beer is equally appreciated and enjoyed by many, but there are relatively few beer connoisseurs. But, even if there are few of them, they presumably have a name — maybe an obscure one, but a name nevertheless. What’s the solution to this proportional equation?

wine : oenophile :: beer : X

It turns out that there are (at least) two solutions for X, one Latin-based (like vinophile for wine, which is so rare that it doesn’t make it even into the OED), the other Greek-based like oenophile (Greek to accord with the Greek second element –phile). You’re unlikely to have come across either of them, but the second, Greek-based one, is especially delicious for me, because it’s a Z -word (like Zwicky), and because it came to me through a Facebook friend, Martyn Cornell.

From the Latin. This one provided by a number of writers about beer, though not in standard lexicographic sources.

For example, on the Kings of Brewing site (“We are lovers of craft beer and home brewing! Our number one mission: Help homebrewers make great beer”), staffer Dan writes [lightly edited by AMZ]:

There are plenty of words and phrases that can be used to describe a beer lover. But my personal favorite is cerevisaphile.  Coming from the root word cerevisia which is Latin for beer and the suffix phile which [means] ‘lover’. It matches the definition, it sounds important and sophisticated, and also just proud and dignified.

The pronunciation might look tricky, but it isn’t bad once you understand it. The way to pronounce it is “Sara- Viz- A- File.”

Latin cerevisia ‘beer’ is legit; you might recognize it in Spanish cerveza ‘beer’.

Now, the English learnèd noun cerevisaphile has a couple strokes against it, aside from being learnèd (why not just say beer lover?): it’s mingled Latin and Greek, which gives some people the willies; and it’s 5 syllables long, which is a considerable mouthful.

But do not despair. You can do it all in Greek, in only 3 syllables, and you can do it with a Z.

On Facebook on 9/24, Martyn Cornell posted a link to “A short history of the King’s Walden brewery” from his Zythophile site: “Zythophile”, “‘Zee-tho-file’, by Martyn Cornell, an award-winning blog about beer now and then, founded in 2007”, at — where you can buy a copy of MC’s book Amber Gold and Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers. 

Yes, zythophile ‘beer lover’. The zyth– part represents a legitimate Greek stem meaning ‘beer’ (well, originally something like ‘from barley’, conveying ‘brewed from barley’, also ‘something brewed from barley’ — hence, beer).

(Note: The ordinary word for beer in Modern Greek is in fact the borrowed term pronounced [bíra]. Word-initial [b] in MGk is spelled, you’ll be astonished to hear, μπ — that is, mp (voicing from the μ, bilabial stop from the π). Don’t ask.)


3 Responses to “wine : oenophile :: beer : X”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I hadn’t known (having not bothered to research it) that the Spanish cerveza came from the Latin word for beer, although it’s not surprising; what is somewhat surprising is that other Romance languages (French and Italian, at least) don’t have the Latin-based form, but instead borrowed the (presumably) Germanic one.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I haven’t tracked things down, but it looks like the Germanic Bier / beer etc. words go back to Latin biber ‘a drink’, and that’s where French and Italian get their beer word.

  2. Michael Vnuk Says:

    ‘Zythophile’ is better because it is shorter. ‘Cerevisaphile’ looked a little familiar and a quick search led me to Wikipedia and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as ‘brewer’s yeast’, among other names. Not only is this yeast species used for making beer, but it is also the main yeast used in winemaking and baking. Wine, bread and beer – surely this species has had one of the most significant impacts on humans of any species. According to Wikipedia, ‘In May 2013, the Oregon legislature made S. cerevisiae the official state microbe in recognition of the impact craft beer brewing has had on the state economy and the state’s identity.’ Wikipedia also has a photo of a small statue depicting a budding yeast cell that is located in Hustopeče, Czech Republic. Elsewhere, I found that the statue of Saccharomyces cerevisiae shows the city’s wine tradition.

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