You say horticulturalist, I say horticulturist

Keith Hansen, an Extension agent in Texas, has proposed a fun discussion topic:  horticulturist or horticulturalist?  We both prefer the former, though he points out that the introduction to my podcast uses the term "horticulturalist" instead.  Both terms recognized as real words and seem to be more or less interchangeable.

But I don’t really think they are interchangeable, and I don’t think Keith does, either.  Horticulture is a noun and horticultural is an adjective.  Specialty titles, like economist, botanist, or chemist, are based on nouns, not adjectives.  Otherwise we’d have economicalist, botanicalist, and chemicalist.

What do you think?  Is there a legitimate use for the word "horticulturalist?"

23 thoughts on “You say horticulturalist, I say horticulturist”

  1. Both terms are interchangeable and I don’t mind which people use, but I agree with your assessment, Linda – I think horticulturist, being based on the noun, seems more correct. It also sounds better. “Horticulturalist” sounds like a word that has eaten too many syllables and needs to purge itself of one.

  2. Linda–

    I’m with you. “Horticulturalist” is a barbarism, and I was greatly pained to see it used –twice–in the obituary of Frank Cabot that appeared in today’s New York Times.

    1. Oh I’m sorry to hear about Frank Cabot. I’ll listen the experts and agree with Linda. But why did you use the one you disagreed with in the heading of your blog?

  3. The online OED does not list “horticulturalist” at all, only “horticulturist.” That’s enough for me. (Second edition, 1989; online version December 2011. .)

  4. Yes, the word horticultural is an adjective. It describes something. Horticulture, however, is not a noun (person, place or thing). It is an activity, that involving growing plants. Grammatically, the correct term is Horticulturist. I know, ’cause I are an edumacated one. : )

  5. C’mon, really?

    Chemistry majors become chemists.

    Botany majors become botanists.

    Geology majors become geologists.

    Besides, SIMPLER is better! Drop the unnecessary syllable, and be consistant.

  6. I just saw “horticulturalist” as in “our certified horticulturalists are here to help you succeed” on a garden center website! *facepalm* Really? Oy vey. So, put a check in the “horticulturist” column for me, and, fyi to Greg O’Connor above, “horticulture” IS a noun not a verb. You wouldn’t say, “I horticultured all morning in the garden”, would you? No offense, just clarifying.

  7. Thanks everybody for choosing to go with actual english instead of hacking new words together. I have never had to visit the Dentalist. I am very peeved when people use the term, like ‘professionals’ I work with. I remind people on a weekly basis due to the blatant disregard for the correct term “Horticulturist”

    In this day and age of “u” replacing you, and ‘r’ replacing are, it pains me to tolerate the undereducated, I prefer to have my conversations with people who refrain from lazy english.

    It’s early, I require coffee, so my rambling may be due to lack of caffeine.
    Everybody, please have a safe and productive day.

  8. While I can agree somewhat with what others are saying, I have to disagree with your reasoning regarding the following:

    “Specialty titles, like economist, botanist, or chemist, are based on nouns, not adjectives. Otherwise we’d have economicalist, botanicalist, and chemicalist”.

    We can study the economy, botany or chemistry, but not horticultary, can we? I believe the correct term to use to be horticulturalist, much like the term “agriculturalist”. Yes it is harder to say, but that shouldn’t make it an incorrect word.

    1. The point is it’s an adjective, not a noun. We don’t name professions based on adjectival forms of fields of study. (Agriculturist is a more commonly used word than agriculturalist – and most of the time they’re called agronomists.) Other fields of study don’t end in “y” – like nutrition and physics. We have nutritionists and physicists- not nutritionalists and physicalists. I would consider your point more favorably if you could identify other professional names based on an adjective, not a noun.

  9. I think that a horticulturist is someone who is interested in horticulture (they may take horticultural actions) and a horticulturalist is someone who is interested in horticultural actions but is not a horticulturist themselves.

    This is just a theory, what do others think, could this be possible?

  10. Someone can work in the ..Floral department.. and make Floral arrangements, but they are a Florist…not a Floralist!!!

    Someone who does horticultural activities is not a horticulturalist… HORTICULTURIST!!!

  11. I know this! I know this!

    “Horticutluralist” has the same derivation as agriculturalist and pastoralist. It is NOT a “wrong word.” It’s a word with a specific anthropological meaning. A horticulturalist would be someone from a horticultural culture, just like a pastoralist would be someone from a pastoral culture. Why is it not pastorist? I don’t know! Probably because the anthropologists use the adjective so much.

    Horticulturalists are societies that practiced non-plow-based deliberate growing of plant foods.

    A horticulturist is a person who studies horticulture.

    Now you know.

  12. The term “horticulturalist” really rubs me the wrong way. I’m a geologist, would never call myself a “geologicalist”; I have friends who are biologists, not “biologicalists”.

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