Monday, November 12, 2007

Word: Pharmaceutical

The word "pharmaceutical" shows the basic meaning even if the word "drug" has not acquired a bad image.

"Pharma" means "drugs." "Ceutical" means "remedy."

So you have this word meaning "a remedy by use of drugs."

I make extensive use of something called a "pop up" window on this site. You can CLICK HERE to see the historical origin of the word and its parts. The click will take you to a new window that opens a page on this site -- but it is intended to be CLOSED when you are finished -- so that you arrive back on this same page. You can, however, use this pop up window just as any window and go to another page or web site from within it.

The best and most honest definition, of course, comes from the oldest dictionary I could find:

Old Dictionary - Pharmaceutical

1648 (pharmaceutic in the same sense is from 1541), from L. pharmaceuticus "of drugs," from Gk. pharmakeutikos, from pharmakeus "preparer of drugs, poisoner," from pharmakon "medicine, poison." Pharmacology is attested from 1721, formed in Mod.L. (1683) with Gk. -logia "dealing with the topic of." (source)

Note that in 1541 "pharmaceutical" included the concept of "poison" from the original Greek meaning. Pharmaceuticals, of course, are far more poisonous today than they were 2,500 years ago when the Greeks were dealing with plants and herbs that had toxic effects.

Likewise, the word "drug" has an ancient history of usage and the "pharaceutical" industry has worked hard to change the definition in modern dictionaries. Here is an old definition.

1327, from O.Fr. drouge, perhaps from M.Du. or M.L.G. droge-vate "dry barrels," with first element mistaken as word for the contents (see dry goods), or because medicines mostly consisted of dried herbs. Application to "narcotics and opiates" is 1883, though association with "poisons" is 1500s. The verb is from 1605. Druggie first recorded 1968. Drug-store is 1810; drug-store cowboy is 1925, Amer.Eng. slang, originally one who dressed like a Westerner but obviously wasn't. To be a drug on or in the market (c.1661) is of doubtful connection and may be a different word, perhaps drag, which was sometimes drug c.1240-1800. (source)

The word "parmacy" is, likewise, now thought to be a fine word, denoting a high degree of professionalism. Would it surprise you to know that the word, originally, included the place you could go to get "spells?"

c.1386, "a medicine," from O.Fr. farmacie, from M.L. pharmacia, from Gk. pharmakeia "use of drugs or medicines," from pharmakeus "preparer of drugs," from pharmakon "drug, poison, philter, charm, spell, enchantment." Meaning "use or administration of drugs" is attested from c.1400; that of "place where drugs are prepared and dispensed" is first recorded 1833. Pharmacist coined in Eng. 1834. (SOURCE)

The word, "medicine," also has a shady history:

c.1225, from L. medicina, originally ars medicina "the medical art," from fem. of medicinus (adj.) "of a doctor," from medicus "a physician" (see medical). To take (one's) medicine "submit to something disagreeable" is first recorded 1865. N.Amer. Indian medicine-man "shaman" is first attested 1801, from Amer. Indian adoption of the word in sense of "magical influence." The U.S.-Canadian boundary they called Medicine Line (first attested 1910), because it conferred a kind of magic protection: punishment for crimes committed on one side of it could be avoided by crossing over to the other. Medicine show "traveling show meant to attract a crowd so patent medicine can be sold to them" is Amer.Eng., 1938. Medicine ball "stuffed leather ball used for exercise" is from 1895. (source)

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