Ever wonder where some of the medical terms you use every day come from? Here’s a brief history.
Explore This IssueApril 2011
Stent: The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) finds the first record of the medical term “stent” in an 1878 dentistry journal. The term described the invention of 19th century English dentist Dr. Charles Stent (1807-1875), who improved the plasticity and stability of the common denture base of the time. Stent’s two sons marketed the product through a dental supply company, Claudius Ash and Sons, which ultimately purchased the rights to the compound and manufactured it under the Stent name. According to OED records, it was not until the 1960s that the term “stent” became broadly defined as “a tube implanted temporarily in a vessel or part.”
- Online. The Oxford English Dictionary website. Available at: oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/189814. Accessed February 24, 2011.
- Ring ME. The story of Dr. Charles Stent. Pierre Fouchard Academy website. Available at: fauchard.org/history/articles/jdh/v49n2_July01/charles_stent_49_2.html. Accessed March 24, 2011.
X-rays: In 1895, Professor W. C. Röntgen of Würzburg coined the German term “x-strahlen,” which was translated into “X-rays” one year later. Röntgen chose the algebraic variable “x” to demonstrate the unknown nature of the rays he was investigating, writing (in an English translation), “A piece of sheet aluminium, 15 mm. thick, allowed the X-rays (as I will call the rays for the sake of brevity) to pass, but greatly reduced the fluorescence.” By the early 1930s, “X-rays” had become an accepted term, used in various medical reports.
- OED Online. The Oxford English Dictionary website. Available at: oed.com/view/Entry/231038?rskey=5KmNue&result=1&isAdvanced=false. Accessed February 24, 2011.
Eagle’s Syndrome: Dr. Watt Eagle, an otolaryngologist at Duke University, first described the syndrome in 1937, terming its two subtypes “the classic syndrome” and the “stylocarotid artery syndrome.”
- Piagkou M, Anagnostopoulou S, Kouladouros K, et al. Eagle’s syndrome: A review of the literature. Clin Anat. 2009;22(5):545–558.
Tonsils: From the Latin tonsillæ (plural), the word “tonsils” has been documented in English since the beginning of the 17th century, according to the OED Online. The Online Etymology Dictionary notes that the word is diminutive of toles, which means “goiter.”
- OED Online. The Oxford English Dictionary website. Available at: oed.com:80/Entry/203226. Accessed February 24, 2011.
- Harper D. Online Etymology Dictionary. Available at: etymonline.com/index.php?term=tonsil. Accessed March 24, 2011.
Stenosis: From the Greek “stenoun” (“to narrow”) and “stenos” (“narrow”), the term was first used in 1872 to describe mitral stenosis, according to The Oxford English Dictionary.