I totally remember joking about that in my medical terminology class, but it completely slipped my mind - thanks for the reminder!
Defined as a succession of muscular contractions from above downward or from the front backward; propels food from the oral cavity toward the stomach.
The separation between the voluntary and involuntary characteristics of this wave of contractions is not sharply defined. At birth the process is already well established as a highly coordinated activity, i.e., the swallowing reflex.
[Mosby’s Dental Dictionary, 2nd edition. © 2008 Elsevier, Inc.]
Hah! Any dog named that would be gassy as all get out. Pets live up to their names WAY too often.
The singular of the term is “borborygmus”, and was originally coined by the Ancient Greeks for its onomatopoetic value. “Bor-” is the Greek root meaning “north wind“…the same root that you probably know from the word “borealis”, as in the aurora borealis.
These sounds are caused by peristalsis of the intestines, and have many causes. The most common is continued movement of the intestines when there’s no food present, which moves around air and internal gasses, causing a gurgling or “growling” sound.
Afrikaans is a language derived from Cape Dutch, originally spoken by the Dutch farmers (Boers) living in South Africa. As the farmers established themselves in the Transvaal and Orange Free State, they encountered wildlife not known in the British-controlled Cape Colony, and gave several species common names that are still used today.
While scientific nomenclature for these species is still derived from Greek and Latin, the names that most of us know them by are derived from (or directly pulled from) Afrikaans.
Commonly referenced Boer-named species:
Through standardization of scientific names to almost exclusively Greek and Latin roots, science has a common language, known across country and cultural borders. However, in the English language (and many others), the common names for many species are directly pulled from their land of origin.
Knowing the etymology of the common names can sometimes tell you just as much as the etymology of the scientific names - what an animal was known for, where it was from, who encountered it the most, and what it signified to them often are implied in the names we sometimes dismiss because they’re “unscientific”. Knowing the cultures that knew the species well, and understanding the history of the species in relation to humans, can be the difference between extinction and preservation at times, and can be quite interesting, aside from that.
Not included above: Blesbok (“blaze antelope”), bontebok (“mottled antelope”), dassie (“badger”), grysbok (“grey antelope”), korhaan (“black grouse”), leguaan (“iguana”), padloper (“pathwalker”), platanna (“flat-handed”), skaapsteker (“sheep pricker”).
An eponym is a word derived from the name of a person, real or fictional. They can be found in every discipline of academia, but are particularly prevalent in medicine and physiology.
There are signs, reflexes, diseases, syndromes, medical instruments, and almost everything else you can think of, named after the discoverer, inventor, or someone else significant in the term’s development. Often the names become so associated with what they refer to that the historical figure is completely forgotten, even among those who use the term every day.
In light of that, let’s check out a few of the real people who have their legacy preserved in the parts of the body associated with their name -
Anatomical Eponyms -
Eustachian tube: Named after Bartolomeo Eustachi, a 16th-century Italian anatomist. Though very little is known about his life in general, he was physician to nobility and religious figures, and was unusually open (for the age) to new “innovative” ideas about anatomy not put forth by Galen, something his contemporaries actively fought. The Eustachian tube is a 3-4 cm canal that connects the middle ear to the nose, which maintains equal atmospheric pressure on either side of the eardrum. Admirer of Eustachi Antonio Maria Valsalva first coined the term “Eustachian tube” around 100 years after Eustachi’s death.
Fallopian tubes: Named after Gabriele Falloppio, one of the most important anatomists of the 16th century, and a contemporary of other notables such as Eustachi and Vesalius. He corrected many of Vesalius’ mistakes in myology, and wrote some of the most detailed works on the inner ear and sexual organs to date. The Fallopian tubes are two fine ciliated tubules in females, leading from the ovaries to the uterus, which carry mature ova away from the ovary during ovulation.
Organ of Corti: Named after Alfonso Giacomo Gaspare Corti, an Italian anatomist who performed some of the first microscopic studies on mammalian hearing in the mid-19th century. His methods of preserving the cochlea were able to effectively allow him to discover some of the tiny mechanisms of hearing that hadn’t been previously understood. The organ of Corti is the organ in the inner ear that has the auditory sensory cells, or “hair cells” - those things your doctor warns you can’t re-grow if you listen to music too loudly!
Cowper’s Glands: Named after William Cowper, the late-17th-century English anatomist, who was the first to describe these glands. Though considered a great surgeon and anatomist in his own right, there was an unfortunate incident where he published several plates of Govard Bidloo’s musculature works under his own name (with no mention of Bidloo), and there was a very heated exchange between the two men and their supporters. The Cowper’s glands are small glands in the male, on either side of the prostate gland, and release pre-seminal fluid. This fluid neutralizes the acidic traces of urine in the urethra, which has the potential to kill the spermatozoa.
Haversian Canal: Named after 17th-century (I sense a bit of a trend here…) English anatomist Clopton Havers. He was a physician with a keen interest in microscopy and bones, and was the first to document several unique substructures in both compact and spongy bone. The Haversian canals are small hollow canals that run within the longitudinal axis of compact bones, which generally contain one or two capillaries and a nerve. They deliver nutrients to the living bone cells.
Bundle of His: Named after Wilhelm His Jr., the late-19th-century Swiss cardiologist and anatomist. He practiced and taught medicine in Berlin, Germany, and only became a cardiologist later in life. His earlier work on diseases led to his name being used as one of the eponyms for trench fever, which is a pretty horrendous disease of war. The bundle of His is also known as the atrioventricular (AV) bundle, and is a collection of cardiac muscle cells specialized for electrical conduction, essential for a rhythmic heartbeat.
Islets of Langerhans: Named after Paul Langerhans, a 19th-century German physiologist, pathologist, and biologist. He was the son of a physician and was keenly interested in anatomy from an early age, and many of his most important discoveries were before he turned 30. He was also keen on biology, and did work on the fauna of Syria and the surrounding areas. The islets of Langerhans are the regions of the pancreas that contain the endocrine cells. They’re most well-known for producing insulin.
Circle of Willis: Named after Thomas Willis, a 17th-century English physician and founding member of the Royal Society of London. He also belonged to the circles that the many notable contemporary Oxford scientists comprised. Though he had a very well-off medical practice, his association with the Oxford experimenters led to significant time spent in the dissection room and trading ideas. Willis wrote about rudimentary psychological principles, neurology, and the anatomy of the brain. The Circle of Willis is a circle of arteries at the base of the brain. It creates a level of redundancy for the brain’s blood supply, meaning that if one part of it gets blocked or narrowed, the brain can stay fully oxygenated by getting blood from another artery that connects to the Circle.
Of course, this is only a few of the many medical and anatomical eponyms out there, but they’re some of the ones you tend to hear about a lot but might not know the origin of.
Next time I’ll cover Purkinje fibers, the Node of Ranvier, the Loop of Henle, Malpighian bodies, Meissner’s corpuscles, Volkmann’s canals, Sharpey’s fibers, and Herring bodies (which are not fish).
Sources and Further Reading:
Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had any Greek or Latin added to our Medical Terminology section, so I figure I can dig a few more interesting ones out of the depths of my memory…no overall theme today, just some useful roots. I’ve listed some before, but it can make understanding more simple if you see what can easily get mixed up in one place.
**If you go to my page tagged #Medical Terminology and use the search function on your computer [Ctrl + F on PCs], you can type part of a medical word you’ve seen, and you just might find the term that corresponds with it. :D
Easily confused prefixes/words:
*-dont-: Relating to the teeth (ex: peridontal, a condition around the structure of the tooth)
*-ton-: Muscle or nerve stretching (ex: peritoneum, the membrane “stretched around” the abdomen)
*Ante-: In front of, before (ex: antepartum, before childbirth)
*Anti-: Against or opposed to (ex: antiseptic, against putrefaction)
*Brachy-: Short, little, shallow (ex: brachydactyly, short fingers)
*Brachi-: Relating to the arm, or an arm (ex: brachiosaur, dinosaurs that had forelimbs much longer than the hind legs)
*Brady-: Slow (ex: bradycardia, excessively slow heartbeat)
*Bronchi-: “The wind pipe” - from Greek bronkhos. Now refers to the off-branchings of the wind pipe (trachea)
*Cephal-: Pertaining to the head (ex: cephalopod, “head-foot”, creatures like squids that have their “feet” [tentacles] attached to their head/thorax structure)
*Cerebr(o)-: Pertaining to the brain (ex: cerebrovascular, pertaining to the blood vessels of the brain)
*Cerebell(o)-: Of the cerebellum - literally “little brain” (ex: spinocerebellar tract, one of the sets of axonal fibers in the spinal cord, that ends in the cerebellum, the structure under the brain)
*Col-: Relating to the colon (ex: colectomy, removal of all or part of the colon)
*Colp-: Relating to the vagina, a hollow, the womb (ex: colposcopy, imaging of the vaginal canal)
*Cry-: Cold (ex: cryoablation, removal of tissue by freezing)
*Crypt-: Hidden, concealed (ex: cryptography, “relating to hidden writing [encoded messages]”)
*Cyan-: Blue (ex: cyanosis, the state of being blue, often caused by lack of oxygenation)
*Cyes-: Pregnancy (ex: cyesis, the state of pregnancy, obsolete term, rarely seen)
*Cyst-: Any closed cavity or sac lined by epithelial cells (ex: cysticercosis, the condition of having cysts in the body, caused by the encysting of the eggs of the tapeworm)
*Cyt-: Cell (ex: cytokine, protein molecules that signal cells to move, such as when the immune system is being activated)
*Dacryo-: Tear (ex: dacryocele, the congenital hernial protusion of the lachrymal [tear] sac)
*Dactyl(o)-: Pertaining to the fingers or toes (ex: dactylitis, the inflammation of the fingers or toes, making them sausagey-looking and swollen)
*Eti-: “Cause of” (ex. etiology, the cause of [a given subject], in medicine, the etiology of a disease, condition, symptom, or outbreak, are particularly relevant)
*Ento-: Insect (ex. entomology, the study of insects)
*Ect(o)-: Outside, external (ex. ectopic, “out of place”, for example, a pregnancy outside of where it should be)
*Epi-: Upon, outside of (ex. epicardium, the outer layer of heart tissue, inside the pericardium)
*Episi-: Pertaining to the pubic region, or loin (ex. episiotomy, the controlled cutting of the vulvovaginal region prior to childbirth, to avoid uncontrolled tearing when the baby crowns)
*Glauc(o)-: A silvery or blue-gray color (ex: uroglaucin, a grayish-indigo pigment observed in the urine resulting from certain diseases, like scarlet fever)
*Gluco-: Relating to glucose (ex: glucocorticoid, a class of steroids from the adrenal cortex that regulate glucose level)
*Hyper-: Extreme, above normal (ex: hypertrophy, “over-nourishment”, denoting an over-sized organ or structure, such as a hypertrophic heart)
*Hyp(o)-: Under, below normal (ex: hypodermic, under the skin)
*Inter-: Among, in between (ex: intercostal, between the ribs)
*Intr(a/o)-: To the inside, within (ex: intracranial hemorrhage, bleeding within the skull, blood stays within the cranium)
*Lip(o)-: Fat (ex: lipodystrophy, any of the various disorders of fat metabolism, resulting in the absence of subcutaneous fat)
*Lith(o)-: Stone (ex: lithocystotomy, cutting open the bladder to remove kidney stone)
*Mammo-: Pertaining to the breast (ex: mammography, imaging of the whole breast)
*Mammill(o)-: Pertaining to the nipple (ex: mammilliform, in the shape of a nipple, used in describing certain growths, tumors, or nodules)
*Mast(o)-: Breast (ex: mastoid, breast-like, the rounded protrusion of bone just behind the ear, once thought to look like a breast)
*Myo-: Relating to muscle (ex: cardiomyopathy, any disease of the muscle of the heart)
*Myxo-: Mucus, slime (ex: myxomatous, a benign tumor of connective tissue containing jellylike/mucus material)
*Myco-: Fungus (ex: rhinomycosis, a fungal infection of the nasal mucous membranes)
*Myel(o)-: Relating to the bone marrow or spinal cord (ex: poliomyelitis, an inflammatory process involving the gray matter of the spinal cord)
*Narco-: Numb, sleep (ex: narcotic, capable of inducing a state of stuporous analgesia - a numb stupor)
*Necro-: Death (ex: necrotizing, causing the death of cells, as in necrotizing fasciitis, the infection causing the death of the fascia)
*Nephro-: Kidney (ex: epinephrine, “from above the kidney”, so-called because the adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys)
Death - noun - \ˈdeth\
1. a: A permanent cessation of all vital functions: the end of life
b: An instance of dying
2. a: The cause or occasion of loss of life
b: A cause of ruin
The End of Life
The definition of death has been a recurring point of contention throughout both religious and medical history. Today, medicine defines two different deaths that are commonly encountered: brain death and clinical death. Brain death is the permanent cessation of all electrical function in the brain. At that point, the consciousness and personhood of an individual is largely believed to no longer exist. Legally, brain death has only defined being “dead” in the United States since 1983, and around most parts of the world since the late ’80s - mid ’90s.
There are a multitude of historic issues regarded when life ceases to exist, what to do when someone is assumed dead, whether there is an aspect of a person that lives beyond death, and everything in between. I may focus on some of those in the future, but today, let’s start at the beginning: let’s define a few of the medical words and terms used to define death and dying, especially those that aren’t so clear, or may not be used today.
Definitions past break!