Intended for healthcare professionals

Fillers When I use a word


BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 25 May 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1271
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist (
  1. Oxford

    I am often told that a patient is nauseous, only to find that he or she is actually nauseated, not nauseous at all, or at least not what I mean by nauseous.

    The word nausea comes from the Greek nausia or nautia, which originally meant seasickness (Greek naus = ship). In Latin nauseare meant to make sick; nauseated (from the supine form nauseatum) therefore means made to feel sick (verb transitive) or feeling sick (adjective).

    Now the suffixosus in Latin meant full of or rich in. And, although nauseosus could have meant feeling sick or nauseated, it was actually used to mean causing nausea. When nauseous came into English from the Latin it first meant likely to feel sick (that is, squeamish) or fastidious, but that meaning rapidly became obsolete. At the same time nauseous was …

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