Thursday 19 August 2010


The other day I came across the word necrocracy in an article about Little Venice. Necrocracy is not in the OED, although it's easy to work out that it means government by the dead (a bit like G.K. Chesterton's dictum that 'tradition is the democracy of the dead').

Though there's no necrocracy, there are an awful lot of necro-words in the dictionary. My favourite is necropolitan, which relates to necropolis as metropolitan relates to metropolis. A necropolis is a city of the dead, or in other words: a large graveyard.

This makes more sense if you live in a country that's keen on tombs. Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris (pictured) looks and feels like a neat little town. Once expects to see a postman.

So necropolitan means graveyardish. The word is, of course, preposterously periphrastic, but sesquipedalianism can be charming. Consider the first recorded use of the word:

If, when he was first struck with the necropolitan tone of his cough, he had given some time to the study of health, he might possibly have lived to preach many sermons too good to be popular.

It wasn't the cough
That carried him off,
But the coffin they carried him off in.


  1. Mmmm... my favourite ice cream!

  2. I'm glad the Inky Fool is off his Action Movie kick, (not that there was anything wrong with it).

    Here's one: Necroliterarian: a person who generally prefers dead poets and authors to living ones. Not to be confused with necroliterariaphilia.

  3. North Korea is arguably a necrocracy, or a thanatocracy, in that its president has been dead some sixteen years.