Where Does the Word “photography” Come From?

epSos .de/CC-BY-2.0

The word “photography” is a combination of the Greek root words “photo-,” meaning “light,” and “-graphia,” meaning “writing” or “drawing.” Thus, “photography” literally means “writing or drawing with light.”

In 1839, Sir John Herschel appears to have coined the terms “photograph” and “photography” and established them in the academic and general vernacular, where they have remained relatively unaltered since. “Photograph,” the word indicating the product of photography, shares the same etymology. The word “photograph” competed against other contenders before its acceptance, including “heliograph,” “photogene” and “sunprint.” It was Sir Herschel’s lecture on photography to the Royal Society in London in March of 1839 that appears to have solidified the use of the term.