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Affixes: the building blocks of English
Affixes: the building blocks of English

-phagy Also -phagia, -phagic, -phagous, -phage, and -phagia.

Feeding or subsisting on a specified food.

[Greek phagein, to eat.]

The noun ending -phagy indicates the eating of a specified food, as with coprophagy (Greek kopros, dung), the eating of faeces or dung; anthropophagy (Greek anthrōpos, human being), the eating of human flesh by human beings, cannibalism; geophagy, the practice in some tribal societies of eating earth. The noun ending -phagia is a less common alternative, as in polyphagia, the eating of a varied diet, or omophagia (Greek ōmos, raw), the eating of raw food, especially raw meat. (Dysphagia, on the other hand, difficulty in speaking, derives instead from Greek phatos, spoken.)

Related adjectives are formed either in -phagic or -phagous, though the latter is more common. Examples of the former include hyperphagic, an alternative to bulimic, relating to insatiable overeating as a medical condition, and anthropophagic, cannibalistic. Examples of the latter are phytophagous, of a creature that feeds on plants, and polyphagous, of an animal that eats many kinds of food.

The ending -phage marks organisms that feed or subsist in a given way, as in saprophage (Greek sapros, putrid), an organism that feeds on or obtains its nourishment from decaying organic matter, and bacteriophage, a virus which parasitizes a bacterium by infecting it and reproducing inside it.

The plural ending -phaga appears in systematic names for animal groups to indicate a method of feeding, as in Entomophaga (Greek entomon, insect) a genus of fungi that live on insects; Phyllophaga (Greek phullon, leaf), a genus of beetles whose larvae feed on plant roots; Mallophaga (Greek mallos, lock of wool), an order of insects that comprises the biting lice.

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