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geophagy

[jee-of-uh-jee]
noun
  1. the practice of eating earthy matter, especially clay or chalk, as in famine-stricken areas.
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Also ge·o·pha·gia [jee-uh-fey-juh, -jee-uh] /ˌdʒi əˈfeɪ dʒə, -dʒi ə/, ge·oph·a·gism [jee-of-uh-jiz-uh m] /dʒiˈɒf əˌdʒɪz əm/.

Origin of geophagy

First recorded in 1840–50; geo- + -phagy
Related formsge·oph·a·gist, nounge·oph·a·gous [jee-of-uh-guh s] /dʒiˈɒf ə gəs/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for geophagy

Historical Examples of geophagy

  • The Whites settled in South America are likewise addicted to geophagy.

    The Races of Man

    Joseph Deniker


British Dictionary definitions for geophagy

geophagy

geophagia (ˌdʒɪəˈfeɪdʒə, -dʒɪə) or geophagism (dʒɪˈɒfədʒɪzəm)

noun
  1. the practice of eating earth, clay, chalk, etc, found in some primitive tribes
  2. zoology the habit of some animals, esp earthworms, of eating soil
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Derived Formsgeophagist, noungeophagous (dʒɪˈɒfəɡəs), adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for geophagy

n.

"dirt-eating," 1850, from Greek *geophagia (according to OED the actual Greek is geotragia), from geo-, comb. form of ge "earth" (see Gaia) + phagein "to eat."

A diseased appetite ... prevails in several parts of Alabama, where they eat clay. I heard various speculations on the origin of this singular propensity, called 'geophagy' in some medical books. [Lyell, "Second Visit to U.S.," 1850]

Cf. also pica (n.2).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

geophagy in Medicine

geophagy

(jē-ŏfə-jē)
n.
  1. The eating of earthy substances, such as clay or chalk, that is practiced as a custom or for dietary or subsistence reasons.dirt-eating
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Related formsge•opha•gist n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.