Etymology of Medical terms


The etymology of medical words is a fascinating field and one that give us an insight into

the present use of words. Today I am going to give a few examples but hope to continue a regular post on the subject. Here are a couple of examples to start off the series:






HYDROPHOBIA animals rabies

This term comes from the late Latin “hydrophobia”, from the Greek “hydrophobos” meaning “dreading water”; from hydr(water) and “phobos” (dread, fear). It is a symptom of rabies in man, sometimes a synonym for the disease, as the human sufferer shows an aversion to water and a difficulty in swallowing.






This term comes from the late Latin “hypochondria” which in turn comes from the Greek “hypokhondria”, “hypo”= below, and “khondros”= cartilage of the breastbone. And this reflects an ancient belief that the viscera of the hypochondria were the seat of melancholy and the source of the vapours causing it. Thus the meaning in the in the 1660’s “depression or melancholy with no real cause”, and from 1839 “illness without a specific cause”- the modern term.




If you have any interesting etymological medical terms please tell me.

As always, I look forward to any comments or suggestions.

Diario de Mallorca 3rd February 2013 – Cancer – different fronts in the same battle

Clinical Session in the Oncology Department of Son Llatzer Hospital - taken from Diario de Mallorca 3 02 2013“Today, the session of the oncologists is in English and the teacher (1) attends, taking notes and correcting the occasional term when necessary. Cancer,tumour, chemo, metastasis….. are words that are understood perfectly despite being spoken in another language. The department of Oncology sees the mastering of this language as essential to progress in the knowledge about  advances in cancer.”*




(1) Jonathan McFarland

*Directly taken from the article in the”Diario de Mallorca” and translated by the Author

Pain and its Meanings – From the Wellcome Collection

Pain and its Meanings

Is pain really so difficult to articulate? Or can it actually generate creative expression? If so, what do these narratives tell us about the meaning of pain?

A unique two-day symposium in December brought together some of the liveliest and most widely respected creative and scholarly minds to prod, probe and discuss profound questions about the relationship between body, mind and culture. How and why do we give meaning to bodily pain?

Featuring historian Joanna Bourke, poet Jo Shapcott, composer Dan Eisner Harle and visual artist Deborah Padfield.