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glossary:surgery

The word “surgery” has multiple meanings. It is the branch of medicine concerned with diseases and conditions which require or are amenable to operative procedures. Surgery is the work done by a surgeon. By analogy, the work of an editor wielding his pen as a scalpel is s form of surgery. A surgery in England (and some other countries) is a physician's or dentist's office.

To define “surgery” merely as “an operation” (as one dictionary does) is rather radical surgery. An earlier entry to “surgery” in this dictionary was similarly mechanistic: “Surgery can involve cutting, abrading, suturing, laser or otherwise physically changing body tissues and organs.”

The word “surgery” took a path so tortuous as to conceal its origins. It began with the Greek “cheirourgia” which combined “cheir” (the hand) and “ergon” (work) and meant “handwork, work done with the hands.” The Greek “cheirourgia” was taken over by the Romans as “chirurgia” and was further transformed in France about in 1171 to “cirurgie.” (In French, surgery is now “chirurgerie.”) By 1387 Chaucer could write in The Canterbury Tales:

With us ther was a doctour of phisik; In al this world ne was the noon hym lik, To speke of phisik and of surgerye.

glossary/surgery.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/16 14:40 (external edit)