But the math in mathematics comes from the Greek manthanein, referring not just to number-crunching but learning in general. From this “learning” root, English has grown a number of useful words.
Here are six other “maths” that all of us can put to good use, both the 33 percent who think they’re good at math and the other three-quarters of us who know we aren’t.
From autos “same, self,” an automath is someone who is self-taught. The more common word for this type of scholar is autodidact, from didaskein “to teach.”
From chrēstos, meaning “useful,” chrestomathy describes a selection of passages compiled to help someone learn a language or a volume of stories or selected passages from a single author.
Mathesis is an archaic noun that simply means “learning or mental discipline.”
This word for someone who learns a discipline later in life comes from the Greek opse “late.” On the surface, opsimath can seem like a denunciation, but there’s always more to learn. Becoming an opsimath is something we should all aspire to.
You’ll recognize the philo- — from philos “dear, friendly” — from words like philately, philharmonic, and coprophilia. A philomath is a lover of learning, as opposed to a philosophe, who is a lover of wisdom.
You’ll recognize the poly “many” of polymath, too, from words like monopoly, polygamy, and everyone’s favorite RNA polyinosinic acid. A polymath (or a polymathist) is a person of great and varied learning.