Taphophilia, Taphophile

Sunset behind a graveyard in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Photo © Fotosearch/Getty Images

Simply put, taphophilia consists of an interest, curiosity, enjoyment or even passion for cemeteries. A person with such interests is known as a taphophile. (See below for the linguistic origin of this term.)

Taphophilia can assume many forms and manifest itself in different ways, such as someone who enjoys photographing the architecture and symbols found on old tombstones and mausoleums; visiting the final resting places of famous or historically important people, whether physically or virtually via sites such as Find A Grave; researching familial ancestry to locate the graves of relatives; collecting tombstone rubbings from old headstones; walking in church graveyards, cemeteries and memorial parks due to their peace and tranquility; etc.

Many groups and websites devoted to taphophilia exist, such as this Facebook group and this Pinterest page and it is not difficult to locate other groups and devotees online. In addition, numerous taphophilia books have been published that explore the broad and/or specific interests that many people feel about cemeteries.

It should be noted that some people take a dim view of taphophilia/taphophiles and brand it a "morbid" or "excessive" interest in cemeteries. In addition, the terms are often broadly applied to those interested in funeral homes, embalming practices, the dead, or other aspects of dying and death but, strictly speaking, this is a misapplication of these terms.

Word Origin
The modern English term taphophilia derives from two words. The first is "taphos," a Greek term meaning "tomb or funeral rites" that derives from the Proto-Indo-European word meaning "to bury." Interestingly, the term taphos also gave rise to our modern English words epitaph and cenotaph.

The second part, "-phile," derives from the Greek word "philos" meaning "loving or dear." Today, many terms that use this suffix describe the love or enjoyment of various pursuits, such as bibliophile (books), ailurophile (cats), oenophile (wine), etc.

Many synonyms exist for taphophilia and/or taphophile, such as cemeterian, cemetery enthusiast, cemetery hunter, grave hunter, graver, tomb reader, and tombstone traveler.

"epitaph (n.)" Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved February 16, 2015. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=epitaph

"-phile" Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved February 16, 2015. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=-phile

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