One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The practice of eating earth, especially chalk or clay in famine-stricken regions.
- ‘Mineral supplementation is usually postulated as the purpose of this behavior, and most geophagy by G. agassizii is on calcium-rich substrates by adult females.’
- ‘It may explain, for example, occurrence of geophagy in parrots, which consume large quantities of secondary metabolites in fruits and seeds.’
- ‘For many years, parrots and macaws had been observed on the river banks in the Amazonian forests of Peru biting off and swallowing chunks of orange clay - a practice known as geophagy.’
- ‘Howler monkeys are well known to engage in geophagy, or earth eating, though the reason they do it remains unclear.’
- ‘The following quotation serves both to illustrate his main point, that geophagy has been widespread, and to exhibit the pleasant style in which he wrote.’
Mid 19th century: from geo- ‘earth’ + Greek phagia ‘eating, feeding’ (from phagein ‘eat’).
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