In the first century CE, physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia coined the word diabetes to describe a condition characterized by an abundance of urine. As this is one of the main symptoms of the modern disease, the word became applied for it. When Arataeus used the word, it originally meant "passing through". You can probably figure out the metaphor there. This is a portmanteau of the prefix dia-, which means "through", and the verb bainein, which meant "to walk" (a definition which later shifted to "pass", obviously). The former is from the Proto-Indo-European root dwo, meaning "two", and the latter is from another PIE root, gwo, or "come". So I guess diabetes is technically the Second Coming? Maybe not, but that's pretty sweet. You know what else is sweet? The official, scientific name for diabetes is diabetes mellitus, and mellitus comes from the Latin word for "honey". And the reason for that is really weird. The guy who added mellitus to the name was the English doctor Thomas Willis, who noticed that the urine of diabetics is unnaturally sweet. Go figure.
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.