Sunday, December 12, 2004


Have you ever wondered why the subjects of medical services are called "patients?"

If I did, it was not for long enough to tease out an answer.

I'm curious about the etymology, but not curious enough (or energetic enough) right now to figure it out. Maybe if I had on-line access to the OED?

Anyway, it makes sense to me now. I've heard and read a lot about how important a positive attitude can be, but the virtue I need most now is patience. Impatience is a deadly trap for hope. Impatience is the advance team for frustration and despair.

Today, I showered, dressed, went to Mass, came back home and went to bed. I slept until evening, then got up to spend a couple hours with my family. I'm fading fast, and will be back in bed soon. I hate it.

But for now, I guess, that's my job. Sleep. Let the chemo percolate. Be patient.

If only I could be patient a little faster.


Blogger UisceBaGirl said...

Wondering about the coincidence of the word "patient" in its current relevant meanings is much better than musing about why doctors call it a "practice".

8:55 PM  
Blogger terryd said...

Well, I DO have access to OED online, so I thought I'd give you a little light reading. Before I post the whole thing, note that the word started life as an adjective, if I am reading the OED correctly, meaning to suffer quietly! What doctor first got the idea to make it the name for his client?? Says something for the profession, I suppose...
Happy reading!

patient pei.Sent, a. and sb. Forms: 4-6 pacy-, 4-7 paci-, 6- patient, (6 paty-). [a. OFr. pacient, passient (13-14th c.), later patient, ad. L. patient-em, pr. pple. of pati to suffer.]

A. adj.

a. Bearing or enduring (pain, affliction, trouble, or evil of any kind) with composure, without discontent or complaint; having the quality or capacity of so bearing; exercising or possessing patience.

C. 1320-40 [implied in patiently].

C. 1370 Hymns Virgin 106 In peyne be meke and pacient.

1382 Wyclif Rom. xii. 12 Ioyinge in hope, pacient in tribulacioun.

C. 1450 tr. De Imitatione i. xvi. 18 Studie to be pacient in suffring.

1596 Shaks. Merch. V. i. iii. 110 Many a haue rated me..Still haue I borne it with a patient shrug.

1643 Milton Divorce i. viii. Wks. (1851) 39 Job the patientest of men.

1784 Cowper Task iv. 407, I praise you much, ye meek and patient pair, For ye are worthy.

1842 Tennyson St. Sim. Styl. 15 Patient on this tall pillar I have borne Rain, wind, frost, heat, hail, damp, and sleet, and snow.
b. Longsuffering, forbearing; with to, towards, lenient towards, bearing with (others, their infirmities, etc.).

1377 Langl. P. Pl. B. xv. 195 Paciente of tonge, And boxome as of berynge to burgeys and to lordes.

1382 Wyclif 1 Thess. v. 14 Resceyue 3e syke men, be 3e pacient to alle men.

1598 B. Jonson Ev. Man in Hum. iii. iv, You'ld mad the patient'st body in the world, to heare you talke so, without any sense or reason.

1606 Chapman Gentlem. Usher Plays 1873 I. 325 Thou weariest not thy husbands patient eares.

1797 Mrs. Radcliffe Italian i, Ellena was the sole support of her aunt's declining years;..patient to her infirmities.

1852 Bright Hymn, `And now, O Father', Most patient Saviour, who dost love us still.

c. Calmly expectant; not hasty or impetuous; quietly awaiting the course or issue of events, etc.

1382 Wyclif Eccl. vii. 8 Betere is a pacient man than the enhauncende hymself.

1526 Pilgr. Perf. (W. de W. 1531) 41 b, Better it is to haue a pacyent soule, than to do myracles.

A. 1550 in Dunbar's Poems (S.T.S.) 312 Gif 3e wald lufe and luvit be, In mynd keip weill thir thingis thre,..Be secreit, trew, and pacient.

1598 Chapman Blind Beggar Plays 1873 I. 33 Be patient my wench and Ile tell thee.

1791 Mrs. Radcliffe Rom. Forest i, The him be patient awhile.

1866 Ruskin Eth. Dust iv. 61, I know twenty persevering girls for one patient one; but it is only that twenty-first who can do her work, out and out, or enjoy it.

1883 R. M. Benson Spir. Read. Advent 115 We must form a habit of patient expectation.

d. Continuing or able to continue a course of action without being daunted by difficulties or hindrances; persistent, constant, diligent, unwearied.

1590 Spenser F.Q. i. viii. 45 Take to you wonted strength, And maister these mishaps with patient might.

1611 Bible Rom. ii. 7 Who by patient continuance in well doing seeke for glory, and honour, and immortalitie.

A. 1727 Newton (J.), Whatever I have done is due to patient thought.

1764 Goldsm. Trav. 283 Methinks her [Holland's] patient sons before me stand.

1886 Shorthouse Sir Percival ii. 55 So many years of patient labour.

e. fig. of things.

1820 Keats Hyperion i. 353 And still they were the same bright, patient stars.

1820 Keats Hyperion iii. 98 The most patient brilliance of the moon!

A. 1861 Mrs. Browning Little Mattie iii, Smooth Down her patient locks.


a. With of: Enduring or able to endure (evil, suffering, etc.); endurant of. (Cf. impatient of.)

C. 1440 Promp. Parv. 376/1 Pacyent of sufferynge.

1600 J. Pory tr. Leo's Africa ix. 338 Neither are they so patient of hunger as of thirst.

C. 1611 Chapman Iliad x. 145 Old man, that never tak'st repose, Thou art too patient of our toil.

A. 1706 Evelyn Kal. Hort. (1729) 227 Plants least patient of Cold.

1742 Young Nt. Th. iv. 3 Thine Ear is patient of a serious Song.

1780 Cowper Table Talk 224 Patient of constitutional control, He bears it with meek manliness of soul.

1826-34 Wordsw. To May x, Streams that April could not check Are patient of thy rule.

b. Of words, writings, etc.: Capable of bearing or admitting of (a particular interpretation).

1638 Chillingw. Relig. Prot. i. Pref. to E. Knott Sect.20 That their xxxix Articles are patient, nay ambitious of some sence wherein they may seem Catholique.

1651 Jer. Taylor Serm. for Year ii. xxiii. 297 A way open for them to despise the law which was made patient of such a weak evasion.

1879 Ld. Coleridge in Law Rep. Com. Pleas Div. IV. 304 His language is at least patient of such an interpretation.

1894 Illingworth Personality Hum. & Div; vii. (1895) 169 The picture is patient of various interpretations.

3. Undergoing the action of another; passive. (Correlative to agent.) rare.

C. 1611 Chapman Iliad To Rdr. (1865) 78 [Translators] apply Their pains and cunnings word for word to render Their patient authors.

C. 1645 Howell Lett. (1650) I. 293 This motion betwixt the agent spirit, and patient matter, produceth an actual heat.

4. spec. in Grammar (see quot.).

1939 L. H. Gray Foundations of Lang. xii. 374 A distinction is drawn between the ergative case as the logical subject of a transitive verb and the patient case as the subject of an intransitive verb.

5. patient Lucy orig. U.S. = busy Lizzie s.v. busy a. 11.

1946 M. Free All about House Plants xvii. 161 The names Patience Plant and Patient Lucy are interesting examples of how the original meaning of a plant name can be reversed. The vernacular names are derived from the botanical name Impatiens,..referring to the sudden bursting of the seed pods.

1956 [see busy a. 11].

1977 K. & G; Beckett Illustr. Encycl. Indoor Plants 110/2 Busy Lizzie; Patient Lucy; Sultana. A familiar house plant, native to tropical Africa.

B. sb.

a. A sufferer; one who suffers patiently. Now rare.

1393 Langl. P. Pl. C. xiv. 99 So ©≠at poure pacient is parfitest lif of alle, And alle parfite preestes to pouerte sholde drawe;

1559 Mirr. Mag., Dk. Clarence xxi, The pacientes grief and Scholers payne.

1621 Lady M. Wroth Urania 547 No payne was in her that hee was not a patient of.

1654 Gayton Pleas. Notes iv. xxii. 275 Nor would the Jewes, who did all in disgrace of the blessed Patient.

1712 Addison Spect. No. 486 P2 Let them not pretend to be free..and laugh at us poor married Patients.

1795 Southey Vis. Maid Orleans ii. 217 A scoffing fiend,..Mock'd at his patients, and did often strew Ashes upon them, and then bid them say Their prayers aloud.
b. esp. One who suffers from bodily disease; a sick person. Obs. (exc. as involved in 2).

1484 Caxton Fables of Alfonce i, Whan the pacyent or seke man sawe her.

1530 Palsgr. 250/2 Pacyent a sicke body, pacient.

1631 Jorden Nat. Bathes xvi. (1669) 150 Those patients which think to cure themselves,..are often-times dangerously deceived.

2. One who is under medical treatment for the cure of some disease or wound; one of the sick persons whom a medical man attends; an inmate of an infirmary or hospital.

C. 1374 Chaucer Troylus i. 1034 (1090) And, as an esy pacient, ©≠e lore Abit of hym ©≠at go©≠ aboute his cure;

C. 1386 Chaucer Melib. P46 To vs Surgiens oure pacientz that we do no damage.

1477 Earl Rivers (Caxton) Dictes 39 The physicien Is not sure, for amongis his pacientis he may take sekenesse.

1547 Boorde Brev. Health Pref. 3 b, Chierurgions ought..not to be boystiouse about his pacientes, but lovyngly to comforte theym.

1613 Shaks. Hen. VIII, iii. ii. 41 He brings his Physicke After his Patients death.

1799 Med. Jrnl. II. 345 As house-surgeon, he must have attended the patient.

1879 Cassell's Techn. Educ. IV. 96/1 He practise medicine, but could nowhere find patients.

3. A person subjected to the supervision, care, treatment, or correction of some one. Obs. (exc. as transf. from 2).

1432-50 tr. Higden (Rolls) VII. 341 Scharpe correccion and hasty movethe the paciente ra©≠er to vice ©≠en to vertu;

1526 Skelton Magnyf. 2415 Red. Syr, is your pacyent any thynge amendyd? Good. Ye, syr, he is sory for that he hath offendyd.

1657 Penit. Conf. ix. 287 The Priests may rather justly complaine..of the scarcity of their Patients.


a. A person or thing that undergoes some action, or to whom or which something is done; `that which receives impressions from external agents' (J.), as correlative to agent, and distinguished from instrument; a recipient.

1580 Lyly Euphues (Arb.) 404 The eye of the man is the arrow, the bewtie of the woman the white, which shooteth not, but receiueth, being the patient, not the agent.

1620 T. Granger Div. Logike 72 The mutuall touching of the agent, and patient, id est, of the fire heating, and thing heated by it.

1725 Watts Logic i. ii. Sect.4 When a smith with a hammer strikes a piece of iron..the iron is the patient, or the subject of passion, in a philosophical sense.

A. 1791 Wesley Serm. lxvii. i. 4 Wks. 1811 IX. 224 He that is not free is not an Agent, but a Patient.

1870 Swinburne Ess. & Stud; (1875) 54 To you he [Shakespeare] leaves love or hate, applaud or condemn, the agents and the patients of his mundane scheme.

b. spec. in Grammar.

1968 J. Lyons Introd. Theoret. Linguistics viii. 342 But this conflicts with the notion of the subject as the `actor', rather than the `goal' (or `patient').

1971 J. Anderson Grammar of Case ix. 140 Accounts of transitivity conducted in terms of `actor-action-patient'.

1971 J. Anderson Grammar of Case iv. 52 The lables `ergative' and `nominative' are usually used with respect inflectional..system; alternative terms are `actif'/`nominatif' (Lafitte, 1962) `agens'/`patiens' (Troubetzkoy, 1929).

1975 Language LI. 806 It is significant that the suffix has come to designate the agent or instrument of the verbal activity in certain daughters-but not the patient, product, or location of the verbal activity.
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3:53 PM  
Blogger CJ Fillmore said...

Ah, very good grasshoppa, you learn patience.

I've always joked about never praying for patience because God lets us learn it by allowing us to deal with the hard stuff.

Maybe it was this or triplets.

6:03 PM  

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