Words With Remarkable Origins, Vol. 2

Goto next slide#5: Hysteria

In 1895, Sigmund Freud's Studies on Hysteria helped revolutionize psychology. Freud traced hysteria – psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability – to past trauma.

But the Greeks blamed hysteria on a specific trauma: disturbance of the womb. Hysteria is born of hystera, the Greek word for womb. The Greeks believed that only women suffered from hysteria (something that was caused by harm from their wombs).

The origins of the word may help account for the fact that hysterical seems to get applied to women more often than to men.

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