Sunday, October 16, 2022



I am presently in hospital with an infected leg that needs IV antibiotics, so here are some word origins:



Selman Waksman, the microbiologist who discovered streptomycin, first used the word "antibiotic" in the medical sense in 1943. It's two words. Ii comes from the Greek and Latin roots for against life. 

However, about 120 years earlier, the original meaning of antibiotics described opposition to believing in the presence or the possibility of life outside the planet Earth. A famous naval commander, Matthew Maury, a founder of the U.S. Naval Observatory, actually coined the word antibiotic in his 1860 textbook "Physical Geography of the Sea and Its Meteorology." He argued in his book against extra terrestrial life forms. 

By 1890, it was revised by a French microbiologist named Pierre Vuillemin, who used it to describe any compound or chemical that was injurious or destructive to living matter, especially microorganisms.



infection dates from the late 14th century, meaning "infectious disease; contaminated condition;" from Old French infeccion "contamination, poisoning" (13c.) and directly from Late Latin infectionem "infection, contagion."

Meaning "communication of disease by agency of air or water" (distinguished from contagion, which is body-to-body communication), is from 1540s.



During the Middle Ages, hospitals served different functions from modern institutions in that they were almshouses for the poor, hostels for pilgrims, or hospital schools. 

The word "hospital" comes from the Latin hospes, signifying a stranger or foreigner, hence a guest. Another noun derived from this, hospitium came to signify hospitality, that is the relation between guest and shelterer, hospitality, friendliness, and hospitable reception. 

The Latin word then came to mean a guest-chamber, guest's lodging, an inn.  Hospes is thus the root for the English words host (where the p was dropped for convenience of pronunciation) hospitality, hospice, hostel, and hotel. 

The latter modern word derives from Latin via the Old French romance word hostel, which developed a silent s, which letter was eventually removed from the word, the loss of which is signified by a circumflex in the modern French word hôtel. The German word Spital shares similar roots.



University professors have a prior claim on the title than the physicians and surgeons. At one time any kind of advanced degree was thought to be an acceptable qualification for teaching; as "doctoral" level degrees became standard for physicians, they began using the title. 1590s, "to confer a degree on," from doctor (n.). Meaning "to treat medically" is from 1712; sense of "alter, disguise, falsify" is from 1774. Related: Doctored; doctoring.



The word "nurse" originally came from the Latin word "nutrire", meaning to suckle, referring to a wet-nurse; only in the late 16th century did it attain its modern meaning of a person who cares for the infirm. From the earliest times most cultures produced a stream of nurses dedicated to service on religious principles.


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