The Origans of Medical Terminology

3150 words 13 pages
The Language origins of medical terminology

Christy Hajdaj
Ms. Fobear
Medical Terminology (ME 1110)
March 23, 2009

Medical terminology has a long and rich history that evolved in great measure from the Latin and Greek languages. “It is estimated that about three-fourths of our medical terminology is of Greek origin.”(Banay) “Latin accounts for the majority of root words in the English language.” (Fallon).
We find that the “oldest written sources of western medicine are The Hippocratic writings from the 5th and 4th centuries BC; which covers all aspects of medicine at that time and contain numerous medical terms.”(Wulff) This was the beginning of the Greek era of the language of medicine, which lasted even after the Roman
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Medical terminology in early English texts tended to reflect the cultural context in which it was formulated. Once Christianity was introduced into England in the sixth century, it imported into the culture a medical terminology that both metaphorically and conceptually connected spiritual enlightenment with physical health, and moral corruption with disease. The work sick (sik or sek in Middle English) offers one example of the way in which language registered these cultural beliefs. The Teutonic belief connected disease to the sucking of demons. The conceptions of illness and health in primitive societies can be described as “magico-religious or supernaturalistic.
In the Anglo-Saxon period, both vernacular writing and Latin texts (which commonly transcribed Greek medical authorities) were the property of monasteries, which continued to act as repositories of medical knowledge until the rise of the universities in the late Middle Ages. For several centuries following the Norman Conquest, the language of medical texts were either Latin or Anglo-Norman. Of the two, Latin became the common language of authoritative texts because it was the predominant language of universities. The vernacular, in the meantime, only made a slow return to the language of medical literature in the mid-fourteenth century, during which time a number of medical texts on topics as diverse as bloodletting and the plague were translated into English. The number of