Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stent or Stint?

Roberta asked about apparent confusion between stent and stint. From my observation, the confusion is rather widespread.

The Old English form of stint meant to blunt or dull. Its forefathers were Scandinavian and Germanic words that meant blunt, short, stumpy, and scanty. The modern word ranges all over the landscape, but most of the meanings convey the idea of shortening, ceasing, limiting, or stopping altogether.

There are 9 different stents, totally unconnected, but the one most people think of is the medical device, a tube placed in a vessel to promote fluid flow and reduce constriction. There is some controversy over the origin of the word, but there is evidence that it was originally a dental impression compound invented by a 19th century British dentist named Charles T. Stent.

We might use both in the same sentence by writing something such as, “Don’t stint on the stents during my angioplasty.” I think that the distinction is worth maintaining, but I acknowledge that Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary of the English Language (1961) had this entry: “Stent, also stint.”

SIDEBAR: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: stent

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

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