A cataract is defined as
a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision, a common occurrence in
the elderly. The word has a fascinating origin.
The original Greek
version (καταρ(ρ)άκτης) meant a downrushing, a waterfall, a floodgate, or a
portcullis. The last meaning seems out of place until you recall that a
portcullis was a latticed grate or gate that could be lowered to protect the
entrance to a castle. In other words, the direction is down for all those meanings.
The first English use
translated it as floodgate, and it was biblical in origin.
Genesis 7. xi: . . . on that day all the springs of the great deep burst
forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.
(2) Genesis 8. ii: Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the
heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.
cataract was then applied to a downspout, a waterfall, and a violent downpour
of rain. The portcullis meaning showed up in 1360, and the medical term in
1547. For a person with advanced cataracts, the world is cloudy and indistinct,
as if standing behind a waterfall or looking through a screen.
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