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A 1411 illustration of a man using an early artillery weapon, a type of blunderbuss called a Klotzbüchse[n 1]

A variant of pyrobology, from pyro- (prefix meaning ‘fire, heat’) (from Ancient Greek πῦρ (pûr, fire; lightning)) + Ancient Greek βάλλειν (bállein, to throw)[1] + -logy (suffix indicating a branch of learning or study of a particular subject) (from Ancient Greek -λογῐ́ᾱ (-logíā), from λόγος (lógos, word, speech; reason, reckoning; account, explanation)). βάλλειν is derived from βᾰ́λλω (bállō, to hurl, throw; to strike, touch), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *gʷelH- (to pierce; to throw, to hit by throwing).



pyroballogy (uncountable)

  1. (weaponry, obsolete, rare) The study of artillery; the practice of using artillery as a weapon.
    Synonyms: pyrobology, pyroboly (both obsolete, rare)
    • 1759, [Laurence Sterne], chapter III, in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, volume II, 2nd (1st London) edition, London: Printed for R[obert] and J[ames] Dodsley [], published 1760, OCLC 976409157, page 18:
      [H]e was enabled, by the help of ſome marginal documents at the feet of the elephant, together with Gobeſius’s military architecture and pyroballogy, tranſlated from the Flemiſh, to form his diſcourse with paſſable perſpicuity.
    • 1981, Alexander Theroux, Darconville’s Cat, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, →ISBN, page 137:
      [H]e threw a faithless cipher of moon into the sky, put beneath it a fatherless girl craving affection, and then helpless before the doom of his own contrivances watched in his mind, possibly on that very prom night or in a car parked on an overlook up in the Blue Ridge mountains, the hideous pyroballogy of some vile teenager with a hanging lip, his suspenders disengaged, prying off her gown with his grice-fingered hands and then bucking away like a country stink-cat, whereupon she— []
    • 1984, Richard Woodman, “Powder and Shot: February 1801”, in The Bomb Vessel, London: John Murray, →ISBN; republished as The Bomb Vessel: A Nathaniel Drinkwater Novel (Mariner’s Library Fiction Classics), Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Sheridan House, 2000, →ISBN, part 1 (Tsar Paul), page 45:
      Pyroballogy, Lieutenant Drinkwater, is the art of throwing fire. 'Tis both scientific and alchemical, and that is why officers in my profession cannot purchase their commissions like the rest of the army, so it is. [] 'Tis an ancient art, this pyroballogy. Archimedes himself founded it at the siege of Syracuse and the Greeks had their own ballistic fireballs.
    • 1985, Kris Hemensley, editor, The Best of The Ear: The Ear in a Wheatfield 1973–76: A Portrait of a Magazine, Melbourne, Vic.: Rigmarole Books, →ISBN, page 20:
      And how, by what law of mechanics, can such decisions contribute to the maintenance of its gyration? It is that they are taken suddenly and violently: explosions of disgust. It is what's called repulsion, one of the forces most commonly employed in pyroballogy.
    • 2015, Anders Engberg-Pedersen, “The Geometry of War: Siege Architecture and Narrative Form”, in Empire of Chance: The Napoleonic Wars and the Disorder of Things, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, →ISBN:
      Instead of clarifying the geometry of fortification, however, the treatises only bring confusion, such that Toby's attempts to follow the rules of pyroballogy result in his mistaking a parabola for a hyperbola, and so on.



  1. ^ From Codex Vindobonensis 3069, folio 11, recto, from the collection of the Austrian National Library in Vienna, Austria.


  1. ^ † pyroballogy, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, December 2007.

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