A lazaretto is a special type of hospital for quarantining lepers and plague victims. The word comes from Lazzaretto Vecchio, the name of an actual island in the Venetian Lagoon that was used between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries to isolate sick people. Vecchio means old; Lazzaretto comes from the Italian word for "leper", lazzaro. That's from Lazarus of Bethany, the biblical beggar who later came to be regarded as the patron saint of lepers. The name is an Ancient Greek transliteration of Hebrew El'azar, which meant "he whom God has helped". El, meaning "god", comes from Proto-Semitic il, with the same definition. Azar, meanwhile, meant "helped" and also derives from Proto-Semitic. Usage of the word lazaretto peaked in 1791 and had a slight surge in Google searches in 2014 when there was a musical album released with that title.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.