The noun leukemia was first written attested in an 1855 medical textbook, when it was spelled leukæmia with an ash. It looked like that all they way up to the 1950s, when the a and e were separated, and the first vowel was dropped not long after (this accounted for a large increase in literary usage, peaking in the 1970s). The word was modelled on German Leukämie, which was in turn created in the mid-nineteenth century on from the Greek words leukos, meaning "white", and haima, meaning "blood", in reference to the abnormal accumulation of white blood cells associated with the cancer. Finally, leukos comes from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction leuk, also meaning "white", and haima derives from Proto-Indo-European sei, "to drip".
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.