Intended for healthcare professionals


When I use a word . . .“Well tolerated” is intolerable

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 05 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5385
  1. Jeffrey K Aronson, reader in clinical pharmacology, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6GG, UK
  1. Correspondence to: jeffrey.aronson{at}

Let me be plain. I can’t stand intolerance.

On the other hand, I’m not sure about tolerance either.

It’s not obvious, but “tolerance” comes from the Latin word ferre, to carry, whose principal parts, from different roots, are ferro, ferre, tuli, latum (see BMJ 2000;320:625). And “tolerance” carries several technical meanings.

Pharmacological tolerance can be acquired or natural. Acquired tolerance is reduced sensitivity to a drug, from previous exposure either to it or (cross-tolerance) to another drug. It should not be confused with tachyphylaxis or …

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