alopecia

noun

al·​o·​pe·​cia ˌa-lə-ˈpē-sh(ē-)ə How to pronounce alopecia (audio)
: loss of hair, wool, or feathers
alopecic adjective

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What is the origin of alopecia?

Doctors use "alopecia" to refer to various forms of hair loss, including "alopecia areata," a sudden loss of hair in patches that involves little or no inflammation. It may surprise you to learn that the word ultimately derives from "alōpēx," the Greek word for "fox," but the connection makes sense if you think of a fox who is afflicted with mange, a disease with symptoms that include, among other things, loss of hair. Middle English speakers borrowed the Latin word alopecia, which comes from "alōpekia," a Greek term that can be translated as "mange on foxes."

Examples of alopecia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Vet medicine has progressed dramatically in the past decade; there are now options for dogs and cats with cancer, heart conditions, or even alopecia. Luisa Beltran, Fortune, 13 May 2024 One of the strongest pieces of supporting evidence is a clinical trial published in 2015, in which researchers explored the effects of rosemary oil on 100 men experiencing androgenetic alopecia, the leading cause of hair loss in men and women. Jenna Ryu, SELF, 2 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for alopecia 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'alopecia.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English allopicia, allopucia "hair loss," borrowed from Medieval Latin allōpicia, allōpitia "baldness, mange," going back to Latin alōpecia "bald patch on the head (from a skin disease)," borrowed from Greek alōpekía "bald spot" (Aristotle), "disease causing hair loss" (Galen), original sense perhaps "sarcoptic mange (affecting foxes and other canids)," from alōpek-, alṓpēx "fox" + -ia -ia entry 1; alṓpēx probably going back to dialectal Indo-European *h2lōpeḱ-/*h2lōpēḱ- "small canid, fox" (whence, besides Greek, Armenian ałuēs "fox") and *h2leupēḱ- or *h2loupēḱ- (whence Sanskrit lopāśáḥ "small canid [as a jackal or fox]," Middle Persian rōpās, rōpāh "fox," Khotanese rrūvāsa- "jackal," Ossetic (Iron dialect) rubas, ruvas "fox")

Note: An initial element *(h2)lop-, close to the Greek, Armenian, and Indo-Iranian forms but with a short o, is apparently reflected in Celtic *lop-erno-, whence Old Welsh leuyrn, leuirn "foxes" (from *lou̯ern-ī with vowel affection; cf. Modern Welsh llewyrn, tân llewyrn "foxfire"), Breton louarn "fox," and Lithuanian lãpė "fox," Latvian lapsa. The long o in alṓpēx could perhaps be taken as a reflection of an original nominative *h2lōp-s, but the diphthong in the Indo-Iranian etymon remains unexplained. The element *(h2)lop- has been compared with *u̯l̥p- "small carnivore" proposed as the source of Latin vulpēs, volpēs "fox" (see vulpine), Lithuanian vilpišỹs "wildcat" and other words, but no unifying etymon can be readily reconstructed. If related, the set of "fox" forms are perhaps traces of a non-Indo-European Wanderwort acquired by Indo-European branches at different times and places.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of alopecia was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Alopecia.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alopecia. Accessed 28 May. 2024.

Medical Definition

alopecia

noun
al·​o·​pe·​cia ˌal-ə-ˈpē-sh(ē-)ə How to pronounce alopecia (audio)
: partial or complete loss of hair, wool, or feathers : baldness
alopecic adjective

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