What’s the Word #25 – Leech

March 24, 2016 at 12:02 am | Posted in Today's Reasons To Celebrate | Leave a comment

The word for today is leech. You are all familiar with at least two of the definitions of the word leech…the blood-sucking aquatic worm; and the person who attaches themselves to another person or group for personal gain or benefit. However, most of you probably didn’t know that the original meaning of the word leech was a physician or healer; or that the word leech is also a nautical term meaning the after or leeward edge of a fore-and-aft sail, the leeward edge of a spinnaker, or a vertical edge of a square sail. Here is the Dictionary.com definition.

Leech can be either a noun, or a verb.

Example sentences:

  1. Ernie found a leech on his leg after swimming in the canal.
  2. Politicians are leeches, cowards who feed on the weak and helpless.
  3. Ernie hates it when hipsters park in front of his house and leech off his Wi-fi.
  4. The gladiator left his comrade in care of the leech, an untrustworthy looking Roman with restless, ever-shifting eyes.
  5. During the storm, the leech of the foresail was ripped to shreds.

The origns of the word leech  date back to Old English. The word for a medical doctor was leech. Physician arrived in the early Middle Ages, and goes back to Greek phusis ‘nature’, the root also of physical (Late Middle English), physics (Late Middle English), and numerous other English words. A doctor (Middle English) was originally not a physician but any learned person able to give an authoritative opinion, especially one of the early Christian theologians. The word started referring specifically to a medical expert at the start of the 15th century. It comes from doctor, the Latin for ‘teacher’, also found in words such as docile (Late Middle English) ‘willing to learn’; document (Late Middle English) ‘official paper, proof’; and doctrine (Late Middle English), originally the action of teaching.

Despite popular belief, the blood-sucker got its name from the healer; not the other way around.

The word leech is sometimes confused with, and incorrectly used interchangably with, the verb leach. The verb leach means to cause (a liquid) to filter down through some material; as a leach line on a rurtal property.

 

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