The word hysteria has an origin embroiled in misogynism. The word originally denoted a mental affliction: Sigmund Freud published several papers on it in the 1880s, effectively popularizing the word, which would more than double in usage since 1870. Before that, it was also a clinical term. However, this affliction was one attributed to women, who would supposedly grow "hysterical" during menstruation and similar processes. This is evident in the term's etymology, which traces to the Greek hysterikos, or "suffering in the womb", an alteration of the earlier word hystera, or "womb" (from which the modern word hysterectomy, "operation on the uterus", also derives. This may have come from the Proto-Indo-European udero, which encompassed several lower body parts (the Indo-Europeans didn't have too good of an anatomical knowledge set). Anyway, back to the outrage of hysteria! After people realized that the word was a load of patriarchal jargon, it fell in favor, until hysterical was revived as meaning "very funny", similar to how crazy became an adjective with a positive connotation. Serves those sleazy 'scientists' right.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd