nanocreturns (nanocreturns) wrote in medievalstudies,


Can anyone verify or refute the popularly assumed etymological link between the leech, i.e. Hirudo medicinalis and the A-S word for physician.

It is embarrassing me that I cannot actually determine the relationship myself. My MA was based on Anglo-Saxon medicine, and my PhD will be as well, yet I have never encountered a remedy that suggests the use of an invertebrate or wyrm in phlebotomy, yet people I talk to about my topic (especially physicians) automatically assume that medieval "leeches" were called after Hirudo medicanalis due to their use in phlebotomical procedures.

Having surveyed everything in Cockayne's leechdoms, I would personally imagine that the parasitic invertebrate was named after the physician's habit of bloodletting, rather than the other way around.

I would be delighted if someone could point me in the direction of amy philological or historical evidence to substantiate either side of this problem.
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