What’s in a Word: Etmology of “Alienist”

“Later on, when, cured, he leaves the alienist, “he blushes at his anxiety.”.
~Serge Persky

I first came across the word “alienist” while watching Stonehearst Asylum, which is very good and I recommend. Unfamiliar with the word, I decided to research it. The first impression or inclining the reader gets when they first see the word “alienist” is that it must be something to do with aliens, because that is it cool! However, the Online Etymology Dictionary has a different and completely unrelated definition for “alienist”:

alienist (n.)
“one who treats mental illness, ‘mad doctor,’ ” 1864, from French aliéniste, from alienation in the sense of “insanity, loss of mental faculty,” a sense attested in English from late 15c. (see alienate).

“The human brain is a very complex composition, and its strange vagaries are only known to alienists”
~William Le Queux

We refer to “alienists” as psychologists and psychiatrists. No longer used that commonly, “alienist” was replaced with more ‘friendly’ words. Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides this definition for the etymology of “alienist”:

“Alienist” and “alien” are related — both are ultimately derived from the Latin word”alius,” meaning “other.” In the case of “alienist,” the etymological trail leads from Latin to French, where the adjective “aliene” (“insane”) gave rise to the noun “alieniste,” referring to a doctor who treats the insane. “Alienist” first appeared in print in English in 1864, but it was preceded by the other “alius” descendants “alien” (14th century) and “alienate” (used as a verb since the early 16th century). “Alienist” is much rarer than “psychiatrist” these days, but at one time it was the preferred term

“Alienists declare that almost every man and woman has some hobby or mania”
~Ali Nomad

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Bone Quiz: Revisiting Germany

These Bones Of Mine

Unfortunately I’m only visiting Germany in this blog entry and not personally!  Germany has recently been in both the education news and the osteo news though, so I’m always happy for a tenuous link to one of my favourite countries.

Free Education!

There has been a recent announcement that each of the 16 autonomous states in federal Germany have now abolished their tuition fees at their public universities, with both German and international students being allowed to take academic courses tuition fee free from 14/15 (as long as they are completed within a reasonable timescale).  Each state (Länder government) in Germany is responsible for its own education, higher education and cultural affairs, and higher education is a public system funded with public money.  This is a major step for Germany, although the decision can of course be overturned in the future as states weigh up various options ad political climates…

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Prehistoric mother and child found in Indonesian cave


In the Harimau Cave in southern Sumatra, the fossilised remains of a mother holding her child were discovered.

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2500 year old “ice princess” used cannabis for breast cancer


After the body of a 2,500 year old woman was discovered in 1993, her body was so well preserved in the ice of Russia’s Altai mountains that her tattoos were clearly visible.

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The Future of Cemeteries

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Inscription to Hadrian found in Jerusalem


During a salvage operation of artefacts, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) came across a limestone block with Latin engraving. Further investigation into the message revealed that it was a dedication to the Roman emperor Hadrian.

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Scientists discover when Megalodon disappeared


Scientists have revealed when the massive Megalodon went extinct, at least became less prominent. The date, around 2.6 million years ago.

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