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See also: Sophy and -sophy



Etymology 1[edit]

From the Latin sophia, from the Ancient Greek σοφῐ́ᾱ (sophíā, high knowledge”: “learning”, “wisdom); compare Sophia.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • sophie [15th–16th centuries]


sophy (uncountable)

  1. (obsolete) wisdom, knowledge, learning
    • circa 1440: John Capgrave, The Life of St Katharine of Alexandria, verses 1,020–1,021 (published in 1893 by the Early English Text Society)
      It had ben) beter to haue kepte the same sophie
      Whiche þat youre maysteris lerned you first in scole!
    • ante 1557: Nicolas Grimald, “The death of Zoroas, an Egiptian Aſtronomer, in firſt fight, that Alexander had with the Perſians” in Songes and Sonnettes, page 121
      Turn thee to mee, in caſe
      Manhod ther bee ſo much left in thy hert:
      Coom fight with mee: that on my helmet wear
      Apolloes laurel, both for learnings laude,
      And eke for Martiall prayſe: that, in my ſhield,
      The ſeuenfold ſophie of Minerue contein:
      A match, more meet, ſir king, than any here.
    • 1588: John Harvey, A Discoursive Probleme Concerning Prophesies, page 10
      Who knoweth not the difference betweene…semblance, and assurance; docosophy, and sophy?

Etymology 2[edit]

See Sophy.


sophy (plural sophies)

  1. Alternative spelling of Sophy (in the senses of “a Persian monarch” and “a personage”).
    • 1599: Thomas Nashe, Nashes Lenten Stuffe, page 31 (1871 republication)
      Now, it is high leaking time, and, be the winds never so easterly adverse, and the tide fled from us, we must violently tow, and hale in our redoubtable sophy, of the floating kingdom of Pisces, whom so much as by name I should not have acknowledged, had it not been that I mused, how Yarmouth should be invested in such plenty and opulence; considering, that, in Mr. Hakluyt’s English Discoveries, I have not come in ken of one mizzen-mast of a man of war bound for the Indies, or Mediterranean stern-bearer sent from her zenith or meridian.
    • 1823: George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, Don Juan, canto IX, § XXXIII
      Oh! ye who build up monuments, defiled
      With gore, like Nadir Shah, that costive Sophy,
      Who, after leaving Hindostan a wild,
      And scarce to the Mogul a cup of coffee
      To sooth his woes withal, was slain, the sinner!

Etymology 3[edit]

A back-formation from sophies, originally plurale tantum, but later attested in singular use (see the 1678 quotation), itself an irregular Anglicisation of the Latin sophī, whence the English sophi; compare sophy.


sophy (plural sophies)

  1. (obsolete) A wise man; a sage or wite.
    • 1587: Philippe de Mornay (author), Sir Philip Sidney (translator), and Arthur Golding (translator), A Woorke concerning the trewneſſe of the Christian Religion, preface, page viii (2007 compilation republication)
      Yet notwithstanding some men in sundrie nations have mounted above the common rate, and indevored to cherish and advaunce the said Insights, and drawen some small sparkes of truth and wisedome out of them, as out of some little fire raked up under a great heape of ashes; the which they have afterward taught unto others, and for so doing have bene called Sophies and Philosophers, that is to say, Wise men and lovers of wisedome.
    • 1596: Henoch Clapham, A Briefe of the Bibles Historie Drawne into English Poesy, volume 2, page 127
      These Sophies finde with the Babe Iesus, onely Marie.
    • 1610: Giles Fletcher the Younger, Christs Victorie, and Triumph in Heaven, and Earth, over, and after Death, first canto: “Christs Victorie in Heaven”, stanza 82 (1838 republication)
      The Angels caroll’d loud their song of pecea,
      The cursed oracles were strucken dumb,
      To see their Shepherd, the poor shepherds press,
      To see their King, the kingly sophies come,
      And them to guide unto his Master’s home,
      A star comes dancing up the orient,
      That springs for joy over the starry tent.
      Where gold to make their prince a crown they all present.
    • ante 1635: Thomas Randolph, Poems: with The Muses Looking-Glasse; and Amyntas, page 3 (first manuscript dated 1638; 1875 republication)
      You that nothing have
      Like Schollars but a Beard and Gowne, for me
      May pass for good grand Sophies []
    • 1639, July 16th: Bishop Robert Sanderson, The Ninth Sermon; delivered in Berwick, July, 16, 1639, § 12 (1841 republication)
      It is no thanks then to us, that very children among us do believe and confess these high mysterious points, whereof Plato, and Aristotle, and all the other grand sophies among them were ignorant; since we owe our whole knowledge herein, not to our own natural sagacity or industry, wherein they were beyond most of us, but to divine and supernatural revelation.
    • 1645: James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby?, “The Requiem or Libertie of an Impriſoned Royaliſt”, verse 3; in The Great Aſſiſes Holden in Parnaſſus by Apollo and His Aſſeſſovrs, pages 83–84
      I, while I wiſht to bee Retir’d,
      Into the private room was turn’d;
      As if their wiſdoms had conſpir’d
      A Salamander ſhould bee burn’d:
      And like thoſe Sophies who would drown a Fiſh
      I am condemn’d to ſuffer what I wiſh.
    • 1654: Richard Whitlock, Ζωοτομία; or, Observations on the Present Manners of the English, page 47
      It were to be wisht their Ideas…were undisputable among the Sophies themselves in Physick.
    • 1678: Samuel Butler, Hudibras, third part, first canto, lines 1,423–1,424 (1709 republication)
      Sir, (quo’ the Voice) y’ are no ſuch Sophy
      As you would have the World judge of ye.
    • 1688: William Bates, The Harmony of the Divine Attributes, chapter V, page 75 (This quotation is taken from the third edition because, although the work was first published in 1674, this extract first appeared in that later edition; meanwhile, the specific page reference and link refer to an 1815 republication.)
      The apostle tells us, 1 Cor. 1. 23. that “Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness.” The grand Sophies of the world esteemed it absurd and unreasonable to believe, that he who was exposed to sufferings, could save others: but those who are called, discover that the doctrine of salvation, by the cross of Christ, which the world counted folly, ver. 24. is the great “wisdom of God,” and most convenient for his end.
Usage notes[edit]
  • This use of sophy is occasionally preceded by the epithet grand (as in the ante 1635, 1639, and 1688 quotations), influenced by the Persian title Sophy. Perhaps by contrast, some usage is sarcastic or mocking (as in the 1645 quotation).

Etymology 4[edit]

An irregular Anglicisation of sophi; compare sophy ³.


sophy (plural only)

  1. obsolete spelling of sophi
    • 1598: John Marston, The Scourge of Villanie, Three Books of Satyres, volume 2, chapter 5, page 194 (1966 republication)
      Hange thy selfe Drusus, hast nor arms nor brain?
      Some Sophy say, The Gods sell all for paine.

Etymology 5[edit]

From the common termination of the class of words denoted (e.g., philosophy, theosophy, etc.); compare the earlier ology and ism, and the later logy and osophy.


sophy (plural sophies)

  1. Any one of the various fields of study whose names end in -sophy.
    • ante 1843: Robert Southey, Common-place Book, volume 4, page 578 (1851 publication)
      The various sophy’s — cosmosophy, kerdosophy.
    • 1869: Contemporary Review, volume 11, page 456
      Francis Moyen was, as here described, an interesting character in his way; a sparkling, talented, thoughtless Parisian, full of adventure and, with his beloved violin in his baggage, ever on the wing. Voltaire and Boileau were winning the world in those days. Moyen, like every young man of the period, had read them, could quote them, and would sometimes utter himself in their particular sophy; half scoffing, and half religious, and half philosophical by turns, a thorough Frenchman, carelessly throwing off his first thoughts whatever they were and whoever was near.