Paediatrics and Prefixes

Singapore, being a Commonwealth country and a former UK colony, uses English (UK). This means that some words aren’t spelled the way they’re pronounced, such as “centre”, “colour” or “oesophagus”.

One doctor once said that the prefix “paed-“ stood for “child”, while the prefix “ped-“ means “foot”, such as in pedal oedema. In a jab at American spellings, he concluded that “pediatricians” are treating feet instead of children.

This is wrong.

It is an erroneous assumption that uses a reasonable line of thought to convince people who do not properly apply skepticism.

“Paed-“, “Ped-“, “Paedo-“, “Pedo” come from Greek and mean “Child”. The prefix derived from Greek for “foot” is actually “Pod-“, “Podo-“, as in “podiatrist”.

“Ped-” is Latin for foot.

However, most medical specialities are named using Greek prefixes (instead of Latin) – “cardio-” for heart, “derma-” for skin, “gyne- for woman, “neur” for nerve, “opt-” for eye and “aesth-” for sensation (so anaes- would mean lack of sensation).

What the doctor pointed out that was true, however, was that orthopedics comprises two [Greek] root words: “ortho” – straight / correct, and “ped” – child . So the idea of orthopaedics is to straighten / a child. That’s one specialty that’s drifted slightly away from its name.


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