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Exciting Etymology – Obdormition and Paraesthesia

They say a medical degree has more new words than a language degree. It's probably not true, but here's our medical dictionary corner resident Eliot with some medical words for you!

Obdormition (IPA - /ɒb.dɔːˈmɪ.ʃən/) - isn't that a cool word! What could it mean? It must be some kind of horrific syndrome or gruesome surgical procedure. Surely it won’t be anything mundane. I wouldn't write a misleading intro for a word that turns out to just be the fancy way of describing when a body part falls asleep! Oh wait, it is just that. But, it is still a cool word, cool enough to justify writing a blog post about if you ask me. Obdormition comes from the Latin word obdormire, to fall asleep, which eagle-eyed continental language speakers (French, Spanish and Italian – the triple threat) may recognise as the root of dormir/dormire.

Fun fact: dormition (Middle French and one of the intermediate steps between the Latin and the English) is also euphemistically used to talk about dying! Fun, right?!

We can’t talk about obdormition without mentioning its irritating sibling paraesthesia (IPA - /,parɪsˈθiːzɪə/). That’s the feeling of pins and needles that routinely follows a part of your body falling asleep. Unlike its (in my opinion) cooler pal, paraesthesia comes from Greek. It's a combination of two word roots, para (meaning beside) and aisthesia (meaning sensation). So really, the word paraesthesia came from the Greek way of saying that something feels weird af. Pretty spot on if you ask me.

Guest Blog: Eliot Hurn, 03.10.2018


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