Posted by: Jack Henry | March 30, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Stigma, Stigmata, and Astigmatism

Good Friday, everyone!

I wasn’t intending to get religious on you, but I was going through some of my Editor’s Corner “to do” list and I found an article on the word stigmata. It wasn’t very interesting, so I won’t bore you with it, but I thought the timing was about right with Easter coming, so instead of that article, I have some etymologies and related words for you instead. From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

stigma (n.)

1590s (earlier stigme, c. 1400), "mark made on skin by burning with a hot iron," from Latin stigma (plural stigmata), from Greek stigma (genitive stigmatos) "mark of a pointed instrument, puncture, tattoo-mark, brand," from root of stizein "to mark, tattoo," from PIE root *steig- "to stick; pointed" (see stick (v.)).

Figurative meaning "a mark of disgrace" in English is from 1610s. Stigmas "marks resembling the wounds on the body of Christ, appearing supernaturally on the bodies of the devout" is from 1630s; earlier stigmate (late 14c.), from Latin stigmata.

stigmatism (n.)

1660s, "a branding," from Greek stigmatizein, from stigmat-, stem of stigma (see stigma). Meaning "condition of being affected with stigmata" is from 1897.

astigmatism (n.)

"defect in the structure of the eye whereby the rays of light do not converge to a point upon the retina," 1849, coined by the Rev. William Whewell, English polymath, from Greek a- "without" (see a- (3)) + stigmatos genitive of stigma "a mark, spot, puncture," from PIE root *steig- "to stick; pointed" (see stick (v.)).

Okay, that was pretty dark, though interesting. I never knew that stigmata was just the plural form of stigma—I thought they were completely different words. And that astigmatism is related is also interesting. I just thought it meant “lop-sided eyeball,” not “without a mark.”

Here is a little something more chipper, with a wish for you to have a Happy Easter!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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