Gout.

I ran into the word gout and decided to look it up, because although I’ve doubtless seen the etymology before, I couldn’t remember it (ah, the joys of the sexagenarian brain!). It’s interesting but not especially noteworthy; to quote the AHD:

[Middle English goute, from Old French, drop, gout, from Medieval Latin gutta, from Latin, drop (from the belief that gout was caused by drops of morbid humors).]

Now, I knew the Russian word was подагра [podagra], and podagra also exists in English (defined as ‘gout’), and for some reason I assumed that most languages would have equivalents of podagra (from Greek podagrā: pod– ‘foot’ + agrā ‘trap, seizing’), but when I checked the language sidebar at Wikipedia (always a good resource for such things) I found that while the East Slavic and Baltic languages have podagra, the Romance languages (unsurprisingly) have derivatives of Latin gutta (French goutte, Spanish gota, Italian gotta, Romanian gută), while the other Germanic languages have equivalents of German Gicht (“Herkunft unklar”): Dutch jicht, Swedish gikt, etc., and so do Croatian (giht), Serbian (гихт), and Finnish (kihti). Czech and Slovak have dna (in Old Czech ‘intestinal colic’), from Proto-Slavic *dъna, which is probably related to *dъno ‘bottom part of something’ (per Wiktionary). Hungarian has köszvény, whose etymology I don’t know. There is no Georgian equivalent listed, which I take to mean that the Georgian diet is so healthy they don’t suffer from the disease.

Comments

  1. Lots of hits for პოდაგრა.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    I thought I had seen podagre in French. Indeed the TLFI gives it as a noun and an adjective referring to the type of gout affecting the foot, especially the big toe. (I did not know there was another type).

  3. More at Wiktionary.

  4. This is the second post with the same name this year. http://languagehat.com/gout/ The first one was started off with a nice couplet.

  5. Giht is the most common name in Croatian, but the following are also synonyms: podagra, ulozi, vučac.

  6. I was dead certain the etymology related to the word gusto and was based on a pejorative judgment on the type of diet that led to gout. So certain that I was surprised to see you open your post saying you didn’t know the etymology. Whoops!

  7. Greg Pandatshang says:

    That makes gout sort of a false friend to dropsy (I have no idea what dropsy is, but I class it with gout as the sort of thing that medievals would have; diseases of modernity avant la lettre). I was surprised to learn that dropsy is ultimately from the Greek hydro- root, with the first syllable deleted by apheresis.

  8. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I’ve only heard goutte in French, and it’s a word I do hear from doctors, as I used to suffer from gout. (Curiously, although it’s usually regarded as a disease that gets worse as you get older I had my first attack at 19, followed by others one and two years later, with nothing since.) Long after my last attack it was sufficient to have a routine blood test to be asked “Do you realize that your level of uric acid is high?”. Incidentally, although diet has some effect it is at origin a genetic disease. It’s much more common in men than in women, not because women don’t have the genetic disposition but because their normal level of uric acid is much lower than that in men, so they require a much more severe disturbance to produce symptoms.

  9. Lucian wrote a parody of Greek tragedy featuring the cruel goddess Podagra. Some further details here.

  10. In Dutch, next to ‘jicht’, there is also “pootje”, which is a playful transformation of podagra and is identical to “little leg/paw” (diminutive of “poot”). According to the Van Dale etymological dictionary, it dates back to at least 1645.

  11. My wife had gout in her forties, and I had dropsy (edema) of the leg for many years as a side effect of a medication (Avandia) I was taking at one time. Dropsy/edema is a swelling from water retention.

  12. This is the second post with the same name this year.

    Oops! Thank goodness the first one had nothing to do with etymology or foreign-language equivalents.

    Lots of hits for პოდაგრა.

    Incidentally, although diet has some effect it is at origin a genetic disease.

    Yes, my line about Georgian was a joke, albeit a feeble one.

  13. Persian has نقرس /neqres/, no documented etymology that I can see, though I note the Arabic is the same. I remember using it to an Afghan patient about his symptoms, while speaking English, and having the disappointing experience of him not making the connection because he didn’t feel it possible that his Irish doctor might know the word.

    Hydrops still has currency in the phrase hydrops fetalis. Dropsy itself as a term has fallen completely out of fashion. Pitting oedema of the lower limbs is usually from heart failure, and this is, and has been, common enough that an unqualified ‘dropsy’ in an older text is probably that.

  14. My Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary has “نقرس niqris gout; skilled and experienced (physician).” Odd extension of meaning.

  15. For me, gout is forever associated with Benjamin Franklin. My tenth-grade American Literature teacher had no idea what gout was, but felt it was crucially important to discuss Franklin’s conversation with his gout for two whole days.

  16. marie-lucie says:

    Brett, Thanks for the link! Nice read, although two whole days in high school seem like overkill.

    I liked the details of his life in Paris, when the “villages” he is referring were outside the city limits. They have been fully swallowed up by the capital for generations, so that the gardens and their caretakers are mostly gone.

  17. Greg Pandatshang says:

    John Cowan: I should have known you’d go retro with symptoms. Such a hipster.

  18. Brett, Thanks for the link! Nice read, although two whole days in high school seem like overkill.

    I agree on both counts. Thank heavens I gave up chess at an early age!

  19. Richard Hershberger says:

    I know “goutte” well, from my heraldry hobbyist days, meaning a drop. It is one of those Francisms that stuck in English heraldry, because that’s how English heralds roll. What makes gouttes fun is that each color gets a special name, distinct from the already obscure terms heraldry uses for the various colors. So a black drop, rather than being a “goutte sable” as it would be in standard heraldic language, is a “goutte de poix.” And so on for the other colors. It is the height of useless knowledge, but a good way for fellow hobbyists to geek out at one another.

  20. I had no idea!

  21. I had a comment written earlier, but the power went out.

    Anyway, looking in Georgian dictionaries პოდაგრა p’odagra indeed seems to be the standard term, but there’s also ნიკრისის ქარი nik’risis kari “wind of the joint”(?)(kari, “wind” seems to have a secondary sense of “illness” or “rheumatism”) and დაუფილა daupila. These may be obsolete, though. Nik’risi or nek’resi is “joint”, in the anatomical sense, but the resemblance to the Persian and Arabic words above is striking and it apparently had the meaning “gout” in Old Georgian; the exact chain of etymology would be interesting to know.

  22. Interesting, thanks. So ნიკრისი is left over from Persian domination; დაუფილა barely seems to exist (it’s not in my pretty comprehensive Chubinov dictionary and gets very few online hits), and I have no idea what its origin might be.

  23. Richard Herschberger: If you don’t know about it already, try playing with the Blazon Server; it only supports a very few charges, but it can do amazing things that you could never emblazon by hand: “Gyronny of eight sable and argent on a roundel gyronny of 16 argent and sable a roundel gyronny of 32 sable and argent”, for example, or “Or three groups of three groups of three groups of three groups of three shakeforks sable”.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Odd extension of meaning.

    As they say: “a meaning, its opposite, something to do with camels or horses, and something so obscene you’ll have to look it up yourself”…

    Nik’risi or nek’resi is “joint”, in the anatomical sense, but the resemblance to the Persian and Arabic words above is striking and it apparently had the meaning “gout” in Old Georgian; the exact chain of etymology would be interesting to know.

    If k’ corresponds to Arabic q, the Georgian word could be an Aramaic loan, I guess, and not a late one.

  25. @John Cowan: Wow, I’ve never seen fractal heraldry before!

    @ryan: regarding the French connection, I have seen Chacun à son goût jokingly translated as “My horse has gout,” and would not be surprised if more such jokes were out there.

  26. In Hebrew there are the Mishnaic podagra, צִנִּית ṣinnīt, apparently from the root ṣnn ‘to be cold’ which makes no sense, שִׁגָּדוֹן šiggādōn which Klein traces back to Greek iskhion, and which is used also for rheumatism in general; and more recently גַּאוּט gaut, among the flood of English loanwords now entering the language.

  27. “Podagra” is a much better term for it than “gout” – “the seizer of feet!”

    I immediately wondered if the etymology for the vitamin deficiency disease pellagra was the same, and indeed it is, with Latin “pellis” – skin, from the skin lesions it causes.

  28. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/luuvalo

    I wonder if the -valo part (Sw, kval, G. Qual is related to квёлый or хилый.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    apparently from the root ṣnn ‘to be cold’ which makes no sense

    It does: uric acid crystallizes out below a certain temperature, so when your fingers get cold, that’s where you’ll notice the gout.

  30. Luuvalupäev

    The bone day is a feast day in the Estonian folk calendar, which is celebrated on February 9.

    The bone day was a day off – then it was necessary to refrain from work, especially of the kind taxing on the limbs and bones – to keep them healthy and not distressed. Therefore, it was not recommended to dance, run or work hard on the bone day.

    According to the church calendar, this is the holy Apollonia commemoration day.

  31. Romanian also has “podagră“. “Gută” is a neologism.

  32. New Wiktionary entry niqris with the descendant into Georgian, for those curious.

    I am now wondering about a connection with St. Abibos of Nekresi (who doesn’t have anything to do with gout as far as I can tell).

  33. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It does: uric acid crystallizes out below a certain temperature, so when your fingers get cold, that’s where you’ll notice the gout.

    That’s why it is especially noticeable in the coldest parts of the body: toes and ear lobes.

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