A post on Wordorigins.org asks a reasonable question that had never occurred to me: why is hemophilia called by a name that means ‘blood-loving’? Apparently it was first used in Friedrich Hopff’s 1828 article “Über die Haemophilie oder die erbliche Anlage zu tödlichen Blutungen” (On haemophila or the hereditary predisposition to lethal bleeding). There is an article by KM Brinkhous, “A Short History of Hemophilia, with Some Comments on the Word ‘Hemophilia,’” in Handbook of Hemophilia, Vol. 1, edited by KM Brinkhous and HC Hemker (American Elsevier, New York, 1975), for which Google Books has only the damnable snippet view; if anyone has access to it, it might shed some light.
Update. In the Wordorigins thread, Dr. Techie has discovered that a footnote on this page of Legg’s 1872 A Treatise On Haemophilia has a discussion of the word and its history, ending “The word is so barbarous and senseless that it is not wonderful that no one should be proud of it.”


  1. On the ending, the OED says:
    -philia (ˈfɪliə),
    ad. Gr. φιλια friendship, fondness, forming abstract ns. (usu. corresp. to an adj. in -phil, -phile, -philic, or -philous), with the senses ‘affinity for’ (as in eosinophilia), ‘undue inclination towards’ (as in hæmophilia, spasmophilia), ‘love of or liking for’ (as in Anglophilia, necrophilia s.v. necro-).
    This accords with other medical jargon, and ‘undue inclination towards blood’ is understandable as a name for the disease.

  2. The Greek verb phileō means not only ‘love’ but also ‘be accustomed to’ or ‘tend to’ (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dfile%2Fw). Presumably -philia is here intended to mean ‘tendency’.

  3. OK, that makes sense. Disappointingly prosaic, though.

  4. marie-lucie says

    As in the line from My Fair Lady: “I’ve grown accustomed to her face”.

  5. Might it have anything to do with the fact that the disorder is (or is thought to be) a common result of inbreeding?

  6. “OK, that makes sense. Disappointingly prosaic, though.”
    Let’s think something more charmant as M-L did…

  7. Could a vampire be called a hemomaniac ?
    A philatelist is a freeloader: “one with an affinity for exemption from payment”, vide OED on philately and /ateleia/.

  8. Maybe hemotrope would be fairer. I gather from reviews of American films that vampires are better-behaved nowadays. I can imagine a musical where one sings: “I’ve grown accustomed to your taste”.

  9. In Chinese hemophilia is called “血友病” (xuèyǒubìng), the disease of blood-friendship.

  10. Surprised no-one’s mentioned this, but web lore (you can guess the medium) records that Hopff’s original coinage was ‘hæmorrhaphilia’; I’m going to skip a few stages of due fact-checking and leap to the possibility that the first component of this is hæmorrhagia. (Excused, I hope, by the fact I’ll now have to produce legible text by hand from the OED’s darned images. That and that the presence of speculation above already!)
    OED 1989:
    […] a. Gr. αἱμορραγία, f. αἱμο- blood- + -ραγια, f. stem ῥαγ- of ῥηγνύναι to break, burst.
    Thus not an affinity for blood but one for bleeding?
    PS Found a Greasemonkey script after all that; I’ll contact its author and see if we can get a remote copy-and-paste converter going, so that others can use it straight off. If any Hellenists are interested in sanity checking the output of the project, do (please!) drop me a line.
    Actually, it should probably deal with all the OED’s character substitutions, so I’ll see what I can do with other character sets too. Given the recent news that the OED’s online edition is soon to be the only one in production, it looks like this might be a bit of code that may stand useful for a while yet.
    (Apologies for waffle and likely error.)

  11. Where does the word “vampire” come from?

  12. @AJP Crown: from Hungarian vampir via French vampire, and ultimately from Old Church Slavonic opiri. Those with journal access can take a look at Wilson, K. M. (1985) “The History of the Word ‘Vampire'”. Journal of the History of Ideas, 46(4):577-583,

  13. aqilluqqaaq says

    From the article you refer to: “In Hungarian […] the term postdates the English and French use by a century and the German use by half a century.”

  14. @aqilluqqaaq: my institution doesn’t have access to that publication, so I haven’t read the article. The summary I offered is from the OED.

  15. Surprised no-one’s mentioned this, but web lore (you can guess the medium) records that Hopff’s original coinage was ‘hæmorrhaphilia’
    I left that out because Dr. Techie in the Wordorigins.org thread wrote:
    “However, citation 31, an online history of hemophilia at the World Hemophilia Foundation website gives the title of Hopff’s article as Über die haemophilie oder die erbliche Anlage zu todlichen Blutungen (On haemophila or the hereditary predisposition to lethal bleeding), which would seem to cast doubt on “later” and makes me wonder if Hopff used the longer form at all, or if the Swedish article was written by one of those people who assume that what ought to be must be.”

  16. Thank you, Alon.

  17. That bleeder Eel says

    The non-technical synonym for haemophilia “bleeder’s disease” (which I’d never heard of before?) looks a tad comical by Brit. English standards – a ‘bleeder’ being a mild derogatory term for a ‘git’, ‘blighter’ etc. And the other term for a rare form of haemophilia: “Christmas disease” is something that I imagine we’ve all suffered from at some point normally towards the end of the year?

  18. David Eddyshaw says

    Haemophilia is *not* related to inbreeding.
    Inbreeding increases your chance of getting a disease with the “autosomal recessive” inheritance pattern, where you need to get a copy of the same defective gene from each of your parents, which is much more likely if said parents are related.
    Haemophilia is X-linked. You get it from your (unaffected) mother if you’re a man who has the misfortune to inherit her defective X chromosome instead of her good one. Your sisters will themselves have a fifty-fifty chance of being carriers.
    Queen Victoria was a carrier, (hence Tsarevitches, Rasputin etc) but this has nothing to do with Habsburg inbreeding.

  19. looks a tad comical by Brit. English standards
    Maybe, but I’ve heard it used in Britain. I remember our school doctor asking “Are you a bleeder?” — something to do with playing rugby, I’ve forgotten the details. It was just a colloquial and more amusing way of saying “Are you a haemophiliac?”

  20. Ah, cool, hat. On the upside I got a fun (and hopefully useful) new project out of the search. 🙂

  21. David Marjanović says

    Über die haemophilie oder die erbliche Anlage zu todlichen Blutungen

    Why is it that nobody but a native speaker can cite German publications correctly? 🙂 Uppercase Haemophilie, and tödlichen. Yes, even in 1828. (Today: Hämophilie… or Bluterkrankheit, “bleeder(s)-disease”.
    In fact, I’m somewhat surprised it’s not Ueber. Uppercase dotted letters were uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  22. Fixed, and danke!

  23. Why is it that nobody but a native speaker can cite German publications correctly?
    Because those kinds of thing only look wrong to a native, to others they aren’t noticeable.

  24. to others they aren’t noticeable
    There are two issues you seem to overlook here, Crown. First of all, your distinction between “natives” and “others” is so coarse as to be fairly useless. It is often native speakers who don’t notice mistakes, because they don’t think about what they are doing as much as non-native speakers do. I have a bad reputation here for the accuracy of my German – or rather for my misuse of it to eagerly correct the natives.
    Second of all, the context of incorrect citations is important. I’ve been reading the TLS for forty years, where one expects a more than usual attention to proofreading for typos and mangled sentences. There are occasionally issues devoted to things German, and in each of them I have usually found typos and mistakes in the German titles and quotation. To those who read a lot, such as myself, poorly proofread texts are very annoying, because they throw one off course while reading. I think of these textual hitsches as Kolbenfresser [piston seizures]. It makes no difference what the language is, English or otherwise, all of that carelessness chaps my ass, particularly in a journal like the TLS. Even the Suhrkamp scientific publications that I read often have typos, if not worse. The Fischer edition of Darwin’s Finken by Julia Voss (an excellent book) had missing pages about 100 pages in. I returned the book, and when I got the replacement I had to spend an hour transferring my glosses from the defective copy.

  25. Sorry, the title is Darwins Bilder

  26. I’ve always wondered about the word “Homophobic”.
    Along similar lines, phobic means “a fear of”.
    But how likely is it that those accused of being homophobic are actually frightened of homosexuals?
    And doesn’t “homo” mean humankind in general?
    So shouldn’t homophobic mean “fear of human beings”?
    A complete misuse of prefixes and suffixes !!

  27. John Emerson says

    “Homophobia”, like “homologous”, etc., is from Greek homos “same”, not from homo “human”. It’s still an odd formation, since it would literally mean “fear of sameness”. “Homo-” here evidently is an English-language abbreviation of the English-language word “homosexual”. “-Phobia” implies that homophobia is an irrational fear and aversion, like fear of cats, and this doesn’t seem far off.

  28. How about “homoiophobia” ? Or “misofag” ?
    The imputation of “irrational” and “fear” is moot. I don’t see anything essentially wrong with aversion, do you ? I myself turn away when confronted with tits and bums, but that doesn’t mean I intend to incinerate women at the first opportunity. Some of my best friends are women, but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one [Bonfiglioli].

  29. John Emerson says

    I don’t see anything wrong with aversion as such, Stu, but I do see something essentially wrong with fear of cats, and when the word “homophobia” was coined the intention was to classify aversion to or hatred of homosexuals as a phobia of that type.
    You can argue about whether the thing labelled homophobia really is a thing of that kind, or about whether everything that is called homophobia really is homophobia, but the basic concept and the word coined to represent it seem pretty much OK to me.
    In the same way, discrimination is neutral, but racial discrimination is wrong.
    As always, once words come to be widely used their etymological meaning becomes pretty much irrelevant, as in the case of “hydrophobia”, for example.

  30. once words come to be widely used their etymological meaning becomes pretty much irrelevant
    Exactly. I never use the word “homophobia”, so as not to widen its usage. As a shining example to generations of propriety-starved citizens, I don’t want to be seen countenancing misbegotten neologisms. Others have come and gone, “homophobia” is one that never should have been admitted through the gates in the first place.

  31. John Emerson says

    I find the word etymologically completely unobjectionable, regardless of what anyone may think of the idea behind it, and I have no real aversion to neologisms and even a fair tolerance for jargon.

  32. I was not taking a principled stance on neologisms or jargon per se. It is the use of this particular expression that I object to – just as I object, for other reasons, to the use of “ethnic cleansing”. I am failing certain volunteers on fitness grounds, not trying to do away with the army. We have enough room for disagreement here.

  33. Having too many rules is just setting yourself up to make mistakes. I know Language hates this kind of argument, but I’ll make it briefly anyway: if German didn’t capitalise nouns and put dots over every third letter then you wouldn’t have to complain when people didn’t do it. I don’t need dots when I write something in English, why should you and Daff Marjanovic´ need them for German? It’s silly.

  34. I am slightly inclined to believe that the title of Hopff’s thesis was Ueber die Hæmophilie, oder die erbliche Anlage zu tödlichen Blutungen. Though the evidence is ambiguous. English and French librarians might be predisposed to combine the æ based on their own practices, just as German librarians are inclined to modernize to Ü and ä.
    Anybody in Würzburg (or Paris or Jena or Munich) fancy a trip to the university library?
    Already in 1832 someone was complaining about the construction.

  35. Already in 1832 someone was complaining about the construction
    That’s a cute dictionary entry. The editor indulges in a little round of the well-I-never!-s.
    if German didn’t capitalise nouns and put dots …
    Crown, I see you don’t appreciate deutsche Wertarbeit. It’s no surprise, given a life led with a language where one font fits all, every second vowel is a schwa, and the forms of address don’t reveal whether you are dealing with a servant or a master.

  36. You’re right, thank god, except for the schwa.

  37. marie-lucie says

    English speakers should go to the logical extreme and refuse to dot the i. After all, NOBODY MISSES THE DOT ON CAPITAL I.
    Compared to French, German, Hungarian, and even Spanish, English spelling looks bland: just plain letters, never enlivened by accent marks or cedillas or other interesting variations of the Latin alphabet. Recently someone complained about the monotonous appearance of Russian letters: English text looked monotonous to me until I got used to it. On the other hand, in earlier Centuries English Writers capitalized all the Nouns, just like German ones.

  38. John Emerson says

    Portuguese has 12 or 13 diacritics, if that’s what you’re looking for.

  39. Nobody italicizes cliché in ordinary usage, but it still has the accent most of the time, doesn’t it? I suspect there are still those who write rôle in original compositions, which was not even all that unusual a few decades ago.

  40. You’re all right, other languages certainly would not be improved by their moving in the direction of English — even though capitalisation of words everywhere may soon disappear thanks to the internet — and judging languages in this way, where your own always ends up on top, is the sort of behavior I despise.
    However, as a grumpy old man, I don’t like English being “improved” by adding dots. I mean of course the New Yorker’s usage “coöperation”. “Naïve” is okay with me (though I would never dot it myself): for one thing it’s only one extra dot — unless, as m-l says, you write it in capitals — but more important it was always like that, I’m used to it, it’s not change for change’s sake.
    As for “rôle”, every time I write it and leave off the circumflex I feel I have to reevaluate my position: “Is this right? No, but do I want to be the kind of person who puts a circumflex on ‘role’ in English? No, I don’t.”
    It’s slightly odd that we write cliché but Brontë, for the same sound in English. Not that I would write Brontë.

  41. But you just did. In such cases I recommend the use of scarecrowtes.

  42. Just write it Brunty, which is how the family spelled it until the father got all posh and changed it.

  43. David Marjanović says

    Compared to French, German, Hungarian, and even Spanish, English spelling looks bland: just plain letters, never enlivened by accent marks or cedillas or other interesting variations of the Latin alphabet. Recently someone complained about the monotonous appearance of Russian letters: English text looked monotonous to me until I got used to it.


    On the other hand, in earlier Centuries English Writers capitalized all the Nouns, just like German ones.

    Oh no. That was only a brief fashion in French (and seems to live on in book titles, though I’m not sure). In English, writers Randomly capitalized Important Words; the big-C Constitution (the US one, that is) and the Declaration of Independence (US again) are great examples.
    In German, capitalizing nouns helps a lot in disambiguation (most of which is done by intonation in speaking).
    Ausländer, die deutschen Boden verkaufen – foreigners who sell German soil.
    Ausländer, die Deutschen Boden verkaufen – foreigners who sell soil to Germans.
    Helft den armen Vögeln! – help the poor birds.
    Helft den Armen vögeln! – help the poor to… get some action.

  44. David Marjanović says

    is from Greek homos “same”, not from homo “human”.

    …where the latter is Latin. An unfortunate crosslinguistic pun.
    Greek homoios means “similar”. There once was a theological dispute, complete with bloodbaths and all, about an iota: about whether Jesus is homoousios or homoiousios with the Father, “the same” or only “similar in essence”.

  45. Commas are sometimes helpful in disambiguating:
    Helft den Deutschen den Armen in Grund und Boden nageln ! – help the Germans nail that poor guy flat.
    Helft den Deutschen, den Armen an Grund und Boden, nageln ! – help the Germans, who own very little land, to get some action

  46. “the same” or only “similar in essence”
    The dispute was not so trivial as you make it sound. The inflatable sex doll industry today exploits such subtle distinctions for all they’re worth.

  47. This is absolute nonsense that Cyrillic text looks “monotonous”. Cyrillic text looks wonderful — not as good as Arabic, but much better than ours.

  48. My own objection to the Cyrillic fonts used in the texts I read back when I studied Russian (and on many internet sites today), is not that they are “monotonous”, but that they are hard to scan in longer words, i.e. when you need to quickly distinguish between contiguous letters. Some of that is surely due to my being out of practice, but some Russian speakers here have agreed that “standard” fonts could be improved.
    Apparently the technical monotony of these fonts, in the sense that ascenders and descenders are in short supply, is the main contributor to the difficulty in scanning. But this is not the aestheticized monotony that you seem to mean, Crown, when you write “Cyrillic text looks wonderful — not as good as Arabic, but much better than ours”. Here you don’t care what the text means, so long as it doesn’t clash with the wallpaper.
    I was struck my marie-lucie’s remark that she originally found printed English bland, compared with French. There is an aesthetic component here, hardly dissociable from the being-accustomed-to-it component.
    Last year, when I once brought up the subject of Cyrillic being hard on the eyes, Hat smacked me down and I decided I was wrong. Recently, after reading the opinion of some Russian speakers that there is room for improvement, I felt emboldened to gripe anew.

  49. Ah ha! So it was you, Grumbly. You’re right, I just find the uniform height appealing, it has nothing to do with it being hard or easy to read. Although if you think about it Cyrillic handwriting is not very different from our own; it has ascenders & descenders, so if there were to be a problem with reading a typeface because of monotony, it should affect native readers as much as it affects us and I would expect them to have corrected it by now. But they haven’t found it necessary, apparently.

  50. Cyrillic handwriting is fairly easy to read, as I remember, for exactly the reasons you give. But I can’t follow your SO argument: “Cyrillic handwriting is not very different from our own … SO if there were to be a problem with reading a typeface …”.
    As for why “they” haven’t found it necessary to correct things: last year Hat in effect wrote that “they” are just emerging from the shadows of tyranny, I should give them a break etc. He made me feel like a bull in a russia shop.

  51. Actually, all but a handful of common nouns (defence) in the US Constitution are capitalized. The Declaration of Independence is a somewhat better case, though it’s still a lot of the nouns. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 is more in the capitalize what’s important camp. For example,

    And every denomination of christians, demeaning themselves peaceably and as good Subjects of the Commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the Law; and no subordination of any sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by Law.

    (And, pace Mencken, it has honor.)
    You have to find facsimiles, because transcriptions are entirely unreliable. I think article VI of the NH Constitution of 1784 is alike in not capitalizing christians, but in a quick search I can’t find an image. This site doesn’t even seem to know the meaning of the word retained.

  52. You seem to be saying that the up and down strokes in our script work like serifs in making a body of text somehow flow better and hence easier to read. I’m just saying that you would expect Russians, because of their handwriting style, to be aware of that advantage, if it were one, and to have added ascenders & descenders. That they haven’t felt compelled to changed it makes me less convinced that Cyrillic script is monotonous or in any other way problematic for native-readers of Russian.

  53. change it

  54. And as for foreigners reading Russian det blåser jeg i. It’s completely unimportant how they feel. The same thing with Johnnie Foreigner reading English; this isn’t the Eurovision song contest, you know.

  55. marie-lucie says

    What xenophobia is this, AJP? Am I “Jennie Foreigner” to you? I hope you did not take me seriously when I suggested dropping the dot on the i.

  56. No of course not, m-l. As well as my favourite linguist, you’re my favourite person in all of Canada and France. Not that you said otherwise, but how foreigners like a language isn’t very important.

  57. I presume the “bt” stands for “blimpish toff”, yes ?

  58. Baronet. It just shows that I inherited my title, and that I wasn’t just given it by Tony Blair for selling large quantities of arms. Nothing like that.

  59. Then you are a baronet who “does not use his style” often. Nevertheless, perhaps you would favor us with your territorial designation.
    According to the Wipe, you’re right up there with Mr. Thatcher, whose better half heaved him into a baronetcy, “the only new one since 1965”.

  60. Mars.
    m-l, what I mean is if, for example, foreigners say that French is a prettier language than Dutch then it’s unimportant to the native-speakers of Dutch (unimportant at least as an insight into their language).

  61. Don’t infer from Dennis Thatcher’s baronetcy than no other hereditary titles were created after 1965: Harold Macmillan was made the Earl of Stockton in the eighties (also by Mrs Thatcher).

  62. Too bad we severed our inheritage. I could fancy myself as the Earl of Dandelion-on-Grump.

  63. There’s nothing to stop you having a title, Grumbly. I just read of an American musician in the New Yorker who’s calling himself “Sir”.

  64. John Emerson says

    A baronetcy is the only hereditary honour which is not a peerage; baronets are commoners. A baronet is styled “Sir” like a knight, but ranks above all knighthoods except for the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle. A baronetcy is not a knighthood and the recipient does not receive an accolade. (A lady baronet (rare) is not called a baronette but a baronetess.)
    So it’s Sir AJPC now, and he outranks Paul McCartney.

  65. John Emerson says
  66. John Emerson says

    There is one and only one Degraded Knights Companion of the Garter: Franz Joseph I of Austria. I imagine the old boy had a lot of fun pulling out his medal at drinking bouts and such to prove that he had been officially declared degraded. I wonder if he was given a special new degraded medal, or just some kind of degradation cluster to put on the ribbon.

  67. So it’s Sir AJPC now, and he outranks Paul McCartney.
    Well, I should hope so.

  68. Sir Arthur & The Baronettes have always outranked Sir Paul or Sir Mick.
    Revoked appointments are said to be ‘degraded’ rather than ‘annulled’. The effect however, is the same.
    i.e. None.
    It says the Kaiser was also degraded in 1915.
    I think they ought to write “de-graded”, but I suppose they enjoy the ambiguity.

  69. König Wilhelm II of Württemberg was another one who got degraded in 1915. I hadn’t heard of a twentieth-century King of Württemburg.

    Despite living in a landlocked kingdom, William II was a ship enthusiast. He had a vision of a German Fleet reaching deep into the country through its rivers. The king was instrumental in the establishment of the Königlich Württembergischer Yacht-Club in 1911 on Lake Constance.

    It sounds like a sequel to Riddle Of The Sands.

  70. John Emerson says

    Is Sir Crown’s daughter properly appreciative of her honored status, which is not quite noble but outranks not only Paul McCartney but even Mick Jagger?
    Of course, lifelong heroine Keith Richard addict has described knighthood as a “fucking paltry honour”. But that’s just sour grapes by someone who feels that his fruitful experiments in safe opiate addiction should have been more appreciated.

  71. John Emerson says

    Of course, Keith Richard, lifelong heroin addict….

  72. There’s a pun around here somewhere involving “dubbed” and “subtitled”, but I can’t quite find it.

  73. Hat, the previous comment from “acai energy” seems to be spam. It is merely the first paragraph of the “Haemophilia” WiPe entry. The link is a site pushing the consumption of berries in order to lose weight.

  74. Who is the lifelong heroine who’s addicted to Keith Richards? I think it’s Emma Bovary.
    There’s a mildly interesting story that Keith’s last name is Richards, but it was changed to “Richard” by public relations people to make him more like southern England’s answer to Elvis, Cliff Richard. It doesn’t explain why anyone would want to be more like Cliff Richard. Sir Mick Jagger’s old friends call him Mike.

  75. Stu: Don’t worry, the first thing I do when I turn on the computer in the morning is go to my Movable Type Manage Weblog page and check the Most Recent Comments. When I see something posted by “acai energy,” I just delete it without even clicking through to see what gibberish the spammer has put in the comment box.

  76. The Turks quickly found what an advantage the tittle on the i is. Just try writing a word like “minimum” without it. What you get in either copperplate or italic hand is nothing but an indistinguishable series of rises and falls.
    Unfortunately by that time it was too late for them to fix it.

  77. Now I know what a tittle is! Thank you, John.

  78. marie-lucie says

    But the Turks use two i’s: a dot-ful one and a dot-less one, for two sounds that are slightly different from each other.

  79. David Marjanović says

    English speakers should go to the logical extreme and refuse to dot the i. After all, NOBODY MISSES THE DOT ON CAPITAL I.

    And ındeed, the entıre text of the computer game Fallout Tactıcs (what lıttle text there ıs) ıs wrıtten thıs way.

    Franz Joseph I of Austria. I imagine the old boy had a lot of fun

    I don’t think he ever had fun in his entire life, frankly…

    two sounds that are slightly different from each other

    I really wouldn’t call [i] and [ɯ] “slightly different from each other”.

  80. marie-lucie says

    I really wouldn’t call [i] and [ɯ] “slightly different from each other”.
    I agree, this is an oversimplification, especially for someone with phonetic training (or who speaks Turkish, or even Russian). My point was that the presence of the dot (or “tittle” if you insist) is not just a matter of esthetics as it would be in English (and neither are the diacritics in French, Portuguese, Hungarian, Czech, Vietnamese, and a host of other languages).

  81. Incidentally, it has to be “Sir Arthur”, not “Sir Crown”.

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