Filler When I use a word

Formularies and pharmacopoeias

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d34 (Published 18 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d34
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist, Oxford
  1. jeffrey.aronson{at}clinpharm.ox.ac.uk

The British National Formulary (BNF), the publication of whose 60th issue we have just celebrated,1 and the BNF for Children (BNFC), now six issues old, are shining examples of what medical reference books should be. Which is not surprising—“formulary” comes from the Indo-European root MERBH, meaning to shine (as in Morpho, a genus of nymphalid butterflies with shiny blue wings, so named in 1807 by the Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius).

Because what shines is easily seen, MERBH also meant to appear or take shape. The Greek god Morpheus, after whom morphine is named, conjured shapes in men’s minds while they slept. Aphrodite is supposedly named from aphros, the foam of the sea, whence she …

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