Posted by: Jack Henry | June 15, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Druggist, Chemist, or Pharmacist?

I thought this was an interesting article from Grammarphobia, and I’d love to hear from any of you who refer to the pharmacist as a druggist (or have heard that before).

Druggist or chemist?

Q: In a pharmacy in the US, the person filling the prescriptions is often called a druggist. In England, that person is often called a chemist. How did this come about? [KC – I wonder if this is regional; I’ve never heard anyone talk about the druggist, only the pharmacist. I couldn’t find anything specific, but I’m guessing
New Englanders might use the term druggist.]

A: “Druggist” is one of many old words that Americans have preserved and the English have lost. Others include “stove,” “skillet,” “sidewalk,” “apartment” (now a “flat” in the UK), “merry-go-round,” and “fall” (the season).

In the 17th century, English speakers in both America and England used the word “druggist” for someone who prepares and dispenses medicine (the Scots still do), but the English began switching to “chemist” in the 18th century. (A somewhat older term, “drugger,” is rarely seen now.)

English borrowed the word “druggist” from the French droguiste in the early 1600s….

In the 1600s, according to the OED, a “chemist” was someone who practiced chemistry or alchemy…In the mid-1700s, the English began referring to pharmacists as “chemists.”

…(T)he word “pharmacist,” which is used on both sides of the Atlantic, comes from pharmacia, classical Latin for the preparation of drugs.

For the complete article, with samples of each word in literature, see Grammarphobia.

Photo Contest
I have several entries from Robert Trescott, whose local paper seems to be in need of a copyeditor.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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