Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Fillers When I use a word …

Chickenpox

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7262.682 (Published 16 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:682

Rapid Response:

Antedating examples of "chickenpox"

Dear Editor

The earliest example of the use of the word "chickenpox" in the second editon of the OED was from Chambers Cyclopedia of 1727. The antedating quotation I gave in this piece, from 1694, has since itself been twice antedated by the lexicographers at the OED. First to 1691, from Thomas Shadwell's play The Scowrers: "A Pox of your Love. Love! 'tis a silly boyish Disease, and should never come after the Chicken pox, and Kib'd heels." Secondly, even earlier, to 1658, from an edition of the republican magazine Mercurius Politicus, edited by Marchamont Nedham (or Marchmont Needham), which was published weekly between 1650 and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660: "He was in a high Fever, having red Spots and Pimples, or Pustules, with white water wheyish matter in them, like the Chicken Pox, upon his Brest [sic], Neck and Arms."

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 May 2022
Jeffrey K Aronson
Consultant Physician and Clinical Pharmacologist
Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford