Medicine: World Wide Greek Words

Medicine: World Wide Greek Words

What’s happening? The doctor speaks Greek…

I challenge you to spend a day in your life without using any words that come from Greek. I bet it is a lot harder than you might think at first. To do that you will need to find an alternative to the word phone, a different way to listen to music  which will probably result in panic because you can’t think of anything else. 

This might be a lot harder if you work in the field of medicine. If you are a doctor and have vowed not to speak a word of Greek in a day, you might not be able to utter your own medical specialty. How do you say cardiologist? How about psychiatrist? Any ideas for orthopedic surgeon? I told you it can be tricky…  

The medical terms that we use everyday that derive from Greek are countless. What is more impressive is that you don’t need to have a degree in medicine to use these. People use them everyday and most of them do not even know they somehow speak Greek. Let’s see just a few of the most popular words in medicine that actually come from Greek. 

  1. If you are parents to teenagers I am sure you use the word hormone quite a lot. The official definition of hormone is “an organic compound produced in animal bodies to regulate activity and behavior.” We definitely know how to use this word even if we didn’t know its exact definition. How is it Greek, though? Well, the word hormone comes from the Greek word ορμή (horme) which means “rapid motion forward.” It sure does sound appropriate for teenagers. 
  2. -“I have a bit of a headache.” -”Do you have any other symptoms?” the doctor asks and everybody knows what she is talking about. Symptom is a re-latinized word from the Greek word συμπίπτω (sumpipto) which means “I befall.” Of course we use it to talk about a change in some function that might be indicative of a disease. 
  3. With a simple Google search of the word metabolism we can quickly see how often it is used in connection to weight loss. “Boost your metabolism.” “How can I speed my metabolism?” It is quite the popular word and you don’t need to be a doctor to know what it means. Metabolism is “the sum of the chemical changes within the body.” French lent the word metabolisme to English but before that, Greek had given the word μεταβολή (metavole) to French, a word that basically means “change.” 
  4. Now, if you are not extra careful with your metabolism when you are on a diet, it can lead to serious health complications and diseases like anorexia. This truly dangerous word, came from Greek before Latin borrowed it. Whenever you see the prefix a(n) it will mean without. An + orexia- αν + όρεξις, without appetite. 
  5. Do you spell it anesthesia or anaesthesia? No matter how you spell it the word that means “loss of feeling” comes from the Greek word αναισθησία. Just like in anorexia, the prefix an is used to mean without in the first compound of the word, while the second part αίσθησις means sensation, feeling.      

See? Greek might be a lot easier to learn after all since you already know part of it! 

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