Wednesday, September 09, 2009

-igo, you go

Sally from Ludington, Michigan, asked why bouts of dizziness are called vertigo. It comes straight from a Latin word that meant “a turning or whirling around,” which is the sensation experienced even if standing stock still.

I haven't been able to verify this with the resources at hand, but a number of words ending in -igo refer to medical conditions or afflictions, indicating that it may be a suffix used to name a physical problem. Here are some of them, including obsolete terms.

• aurigo = jaundice [attached to a Latin word meaning golden yellow]

• caligo = dimness of vision [a Latin word meaning darkness, mist, or fog]

• impetigo = a pustular disease of the skin [from a Latin verb meaning “to assail or attack”]

• intertrigo = inflammation caused by the rubbing of one part of the surface of the skin against another [from a Latin verb meaning “to rub against each other”]

• lentigo = a freckle or pimple [because of resemblance, from a Latin word meaning a lentil]

• mentigo = a disease causing sores and scabs around the lips and mouth of sheep [a Latin word meaning an eruption or scab]

• porrigo = any of various diseases or conditions characterized by scales or crusts on the scalp, esp. ringworm and dandruff [a Latin word meaning dandruff or mange]

• prurigo = itching [a Latin word for itching or lasciviousness

• serpigo = a general term for creeping or spreading skin diseases, especially ringworm or herpes [from a Latin verb meaning to crawl or creep]

• tentigo = priapism [a Latin word meaning lust]

• vitiligo = a skin disease whose only manifestation is the post-natal development of sharply defined white patches that tend to grow in size [a Latin word meaning a skin eruption]

SIDEBAR: Skin Conditions

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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