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a specialist in political elections


psephologist = Wahlforscher/in (eine Person, die untersucht, wie Menschen bei Wahlen abstimmen)



“A note of caution was sounded by Prof Sir John Curtice, the PSEPHOLOGIST and lead election analyst for the BBC, who said that the projected seat shares for Reform UK and the SNP were the two figures about which he and others were least certain.”

Ben Quinn — The Guardian (5th July 2024

“Back in Oxford, (Sir David) Butler began developing the field of PSEPHOLOGY. He worked out how results could be expressed as percentages and how they "swung" between elections.”

BBC News —  (9th November 2022)

Did you


- a person who studies how people vote in elections

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary


The word "psephologist" comes from the Greek roots psephos meaning "pebble" or "stone" (referring to the ancient Greek practice of voting by casting pebbles) and -logy meaning "the study of".

The term was coined in the 1950s by Sir David Butler, a former BBC election analyst who pioneered exit polls and the concept of vote swing.

Some comedians have suggested an alternative etymology for the word “politics”: derived from the Greek poly meaning “many” and “ticks” meaning "bloodsucking parasites".


The Greeks’ voting method called psephophoria is derived from the word psephos meaning pebble. Voters would receive two pebbles - one white and one black. To cast their vote, they would drop the pebble of their choice into an urn, typically using their thumb and first two fingers to conceal which color they were depositing.

This system had several advantages:

- Secrecy: By concealing the pebble in their hand, voters could cast their ballot without others knowing their choice.

- Simplicity: The method was easy to understand and implement, requiring no special equipment or literacy.

- Efficiency: Votes could be quickly counted by separating and tallying the white and black pebbles.

- Transparency: The physical nature of the pebbles made it difficult to tamper with votes unnoticed.

The use of pebbles for voting was so ingrained in Greek culture that the word "psephos" came to mean "vote" in general. This practice influenced modern political terminology, hence today’s OWAD "psephology”.


- for politics and politicking:

a game of chess, a house of cards, a jungle, a rat race, a tightrope walk, art of the possible, backroom deals, climbing the greasy pole, corridors of power, dog-eat-dog world, horse trading, machinations, maneuvering, mud-slinging, old boys' club, playing the game, political football, power play, pulling strings, realpolitik, sausage-making, sea of sharks, smoke-filled rooms, wheeling and dealing

SMUGGLE OWAD into a sentence, say something like:

“The news channel invited a PSEPHOLOGIST to explain the poll results.”

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