Intended for healthcare professionals


Words to the wise

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 06 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:l
  1. Grant Hutchison, consultant anaesthetist
  1. Dundee

    Cerebral gyri and nasal turbinates do not, at first, appear to have much in common, but both derive their names from turning words.

    The scroll shaped edge of a turbinate bone recalls the spiral structure of a turbinate seashell, which in turn resembles a Roman spinning top, turbo. This word was also used for a whirlwind, explaining the connection to turbine. The rotary chaos of the whirlwind also explains the Latin turba, a disorderly crowd, which gives us turbulent and turbid, as well as perturb and disturb.

    The cerebral gyri are named for their curved shape: gyrus is Latin for …

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