I was suggested to ask this question here at english.SE, to get more answers. My original question can be found here.

As a foreigner it's normal for me to use graphist, calling a graphics designer. But it's odd for me to find out it's not used very much online. Why is it so? Is graphist a valid English word? Do you easily understand it or is it odd for you? Do you use it?

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    to This is a question for english language and usage. But note that the words "graph", "graphic" and "graphics" mean different things. So a graphist would make graphs which is at most a subfield of graphic design, at worst somebody working in the mathematics department. Also a graphic designer is different from a graphics designer
    – joojaa
    Apr 27 '17 at 7:48
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    For what it's worth, we use both "designer graphique" and "graphiste" in French. So my guess would be "graphist" has similary etymology than "graphiste"
    – curious
    Apr 27 '17 at 12:49
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    As a native English speaker, "graphist" sounds to me like someone who manipulates graphs. Apr 27 '17 at 15:00
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    if anything, it would be "graphicist", which no, is not a word that i've heard of
    – user428517
    Apr 27 '17 at 16:58
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    The correct word in the industry is "artist" which can be expanded to "graphic artist" when necessary but the short form is "artist" not "graphist"
    – slebetman
    Apr 28 '17 at 0:51

In french, "Graphiste" stands for "Graphic designer", maybe it's related to your thought.

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    I don't see how this answers the question. Apr 28 '17 at 18:27
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    I'm from a country where multiple words have been brought to our culture. Some where English, some where French. I, for long, thought graphist is from the English origin, and was confused when I found no use of it online. Now I know the origin of the graphiste! and it answers my question. Maybe the correct question is: Is “Graphist” a valid English word when calling a graphics designer? Well, that's explained in the description of question. Apr 29 '17 at 16:18
  • I prefer not to edit the title of the question. It will make the many valued answers to the current question meaningless. Apr 29 '17 at 16:28

While there is a Wikipedia entry for "graphist" (given anyone can add or edit Wikipedia), I would state that it's not a valid English word, at least not American English.

It does not appear in the Meriam-Webster dictionary.

In my (quite lengthy) career, I've never heard anyone use that term. Sounds similar to someone calling a plumber a "plumbist" or a doctor a "doctist". The English language is a living breathing thing though. 5 years ago the use of "prolly" for "probably" would have brought scorn in many situations. Now, its use is understood (although it still grates on me). So... who knows.

I would actually tend to equate the term with someone who makes graphs and charts, not a graphic artist or graphic designer.

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    So prolly we should call them graphors, then?
    – Octopus
    Apr 27 '17 at 17:13
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    I absolutely agree that graphic designer would not be my first guess for the meaning of graphist, and that someone who makes charts and figures would be more what I would expect from it.
    – KRyan
    Apr 27 '17 at 17:20
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    Well anyone can edit/add to Wiktionry as well.. and a definition using another unknown term (graphism??) isn't really a viable definition :) -- "A doctist is one using doctism." Kind of the same nonsensical construction. If multiple words have no meaning, the definition is inherently flawed, even if possible intent can be presumed. However, intent will vary based upon the reader.
    – Scott
    Apr 27 '17 at 22:49
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    I vote for "graphics engineer".
    – flith
    Apr 28 '17 at 6:25
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    Sounds similar to someone calling [...] a doctor a "doctist". What about dentists?
    – Medinoc
    Apr 28 '17 at 9:36

I've never heard the term... but if I did, a "Graphist" would—to me—mean someone who in some way works with and/or creates graphs. Which could be a narrow sub-field of graphic design, but is not the same thing.

The fact that you use the term and that it has an Urban Dictionary definition (referenced in this answer) implies that it's at least used somewhere (maybe, I wouldn't really classify Urban Dictionary as a reliable reference)... but if it is used in that way then it is a colloquialism that I am (and evidently others are) unfamiliar with, so I wouldn't use it unless you're talking to someone who you know will understand the term.


According to the OED it's not a word on its own, only a combining form

-graphist, comb. form

Pronunciation: Brit. /ɡrəfɪst/ , U.S. /ɡrəfəst/ Origin: Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: -graphy comb. form, -ist suffix.

Etymology:-graphy comb. form + -ist suffix. Compare French -graphiste.

Formations are found from the 17th cent., e.g. orthographist n., cosmographist n., biographist n. Formations typically have (often more common) parallels in -grapher comb. form.

  • 1
    it is not the fact that it is a combined form--a great many English words are, and even some that seem to follow in the same line such as "detectorist"--but rather (if you notice) in the definition above, it is defining a suffix constructed of two suffixes.
    – Yorik
    Apr 27 '17 at 14:39
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    @Yorik: He's not saying it's a combined form. The Oxford English Dictionary is saying that - see the quoted text (comb. form). Apparently the Oxford English Dictionary has a different definition of the phrase "combined form" than you - they use it to mean "suffix"
    – slebetman
    Apr 28 '17 at 0:49

In French, Graphiste is definitely the general term used for graphic designer. Although we also use more precise English words like Web designer, UX designer, etc.

In English, I've never heard Graphist used this way.


I cannot say that this is a generally accepted word and would suggest it exists as suffix only. I asked Google to define "Graphist" and it immediately corrected me and shot back with "Graphic Designer".

The closest usage I can recall is "telegraphist", indicating someone who is proficient at telegraphy.

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    It's interesting though that Google associated it with with Graphic Designer as do many comments and answers on this page and the Wikipedia article mentioned elsewhere. So, it's not too unreasonable to presume that graphist is a close cognate for graphic artist even though many of us agree that its not a true English word.
    – Octopus
    Apr 27 '17 at 17:18
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    "-graph" and "-graphist" are used in noun to denote 'an instrument that records' (or the operator of) and is perhaps itself devoid of the 'creative element' that artist would imply. A purposeful separation of Graphic and Artist from Graphist from this viewpoint is understandable.
    – PCARR
    Apr 27 '17 at 17:32

In Spanish "Grafista" is not a valid word either.

In any case, the connotation of "Grafista" in Spanish sounds totally different than "Graphic Designer" That sound like a "guy that makes glyphs or strokes" Not "Graphic" in all the connotation of the word.


Yes, it is a valid English word, and it's not new:

The use of graphist seems to have reached peak popularity around 1800:

Google ngram viewer for "graphist"

Note that it means vaguely the same thing as it does today, though its meaning has been overloaded with technology that now exists.

They were written or engraved on bricks, burnt in the fun, which was probably the earliest rude tablet of the graphist, though afterwards he committed his thoughts to the more durable substance of marble, brass, and copper.

Indian Antiquities: Or Dissertations Relative to the Ancient Geographical... by Thomas Maurice, Inigo Barlow, 1800

This is my favourite use, circa 1860:

In the first place, then, the mere power to represent words to the eye in written -- made with pen and in -- letters, is but a portion of this branch of education,--the whole of which is equally essential, though parts of it are not as frequently used as mere word-writing. The whole branch has been well termed "GRAPHICS", and embraces the ability to present to the eye, by means of the pen, pencil, or crayon, on paper or other surface, letters in combination so as to fork words, arithmetical figures, the mathematical and other signs and diagrams, and the forms or natural and artificial objects, so far as can be done by mere lines. To do all this rapidly, neatly and accurately is to be a graphist, while to be a good writer of words, is to be but partly a graphist.

The Pennsylvania School Journal, 1860, Volumes 9-11, pages 130 - 131.

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    Yes, however many of your hits are of type "epi- graphist", "biblio- graphist" Of the two first pages there is only one hit that is the one you cite.
    – joojaa
    Apr 28 '17 at 15:45
  • @joojaa Too bad that ngrams doesn't split these. The main point holds, though, as derived forms such as "monographist", while based on "monograph" are likely informed by the productive use of -ist and the existence of graphist.
    – msanford
    Apr 28 '17 at 16:49
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    Regardless of the ngrams, which is of trivial interest, the word existed and was in use in at least one written reference to refer to something very similar to what OP is asking about.
    – msanford
    Apr 28 '17 at 16:51
  • Unfortunately one use does not make for language. If that were the case all typos would be i9ncluded in English language
    – joojaa
    Apr 28 '17 at 17:09

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