Intended for healthcare professionals

Filler When I use a word …

Please, please me

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 13 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:716
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist
  1. Oxford

    Many words change their meaning with the years, and in some cases the new meaning is the opposite of the old, or at least at a tangent to it. A well known example is prestigious, which originally meant deceitful and now means esteemed. I am not sure, but I think that placebo may be in that camp.

    The standard etymology is that placebo is the first person future indicative of the Latin word placeo, I please—that is, placebo=I shall please. But I don‘t think it's as simple as that.

    The word first entered the English language through its erroneous use in a Latin translation of verse 9 of Psalm 116, which in Hebrew transliteration is “et‘halekh liphnay adonai b‘artzot hakhayim.” This is correctly translated in the King James version as “I will walk before the Lord in …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription