Definition of alienist
alienist was our Word of the Day on 12/01/2008. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Alienist looks and sounds like it should mean "someone who studies aliens," and in fact alienist and alien are related - both are ultimately derived from the Latin word alius, meaning "other." In the case of alienist, the etymological trail leads from Latin to French, where the adjective aliene ("insane") gave rise to the noun alieniste, referring to a doctor who treats the insane. Alienist first appeared in print in English in 1864. It was preceded by the other alius descendants, alien (14th century) and alienate (used as a verb since the early 16th century). Alienist is much rarer than psychiatrist these days, but at one time it was the preferred term.
Origin and Etymology of alienist
French aliéniste, from aliéné insane, from Latin alienatus, past participle of alienare to estrange, from alienus
First Known Use: 1864
Legal Definition of alienist
: a psychiatrist who specializes in the legal aspects of psychiatry (as determining sanity or capacity to stand trial)
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