eti·​ol·​o·​gy ˌē-tē-ˈä-lə-jē How to pronounce etiology (audio)
plural etiologies
: cause, origin
specifically : the cause of a disease or abnormal condition
: a branch of knowledge concerned with causes
specifically : a branch of medical science concerned with the causes and origins of diseases

Examples of etiology in a Sentence

The scarf had been purchased in one of those tiny, exquisitely organized stores that can seduce you into thinking it matters less what you wear than how you accessorize what you wear, and the scarf came in just the noncolor colors that I like: mustard and khaki and taupe, shades of dun, nothing too vivid, yet subtly enlivening. I have traced the etiology of this object the better to convey the irrational significance of its loss. Daphne Merkin, New York Times Magazine, 5 May 1991
In social terms, regardless of its etiology, memory loss may be a way of coping with harsh reality. Elizabeth W. Markson, Growing Old in America, (1985) 1987
I have Freud in my novel as a doctor someone has heard about somewhere, perhaps in Vindobo-na in Pannonia (Vienna in Austria to you), who thinks, though not in so many words, that neuroses have no somatic etiology. I call him Sameach, which is Hebrew for Freud. I also call him Efcharistimenos, which is Greek for Freud. Damn it, I couldn't spell it out more if I tried. Anthony Burgess, Times Literary Supplement, 2 Aug. 1985
Recent Examples on the Web Given its complexity, frequent painfulness, mysterious etiology, and lack of a cure, the disease is a research white whale. Seyward Darby, Longreads, 27 June 2024 If infectious etiologies are not considered, there is a risk that patients with infectious etiologies will not receive the appropriate therapy and their disease may worsen. Miami Herald, 14 Feb. 2024 Rule out infectious etiologies of diarrhea before starting Mytesi. Miami Herald, 14 Feb. 2024 Advertisement Each of the epithets has its own etiology, and some of their origins can be traced to their inception. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2023 The term chronic fatigue syndrome was coined in the 1980s for cases simulating post-viral syndromes that were not found to have a viral etiology. Steven Phillips, STAT, 14 Sep. 2023 The statement urges clinicians in the United States to consider testing for adenovirus in pediatric patients who have hepatitis of unknown etiology and report these cases to their state public health labs and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Shiv Sudhakar, Fox News, 28 Apr. 2022 The etiology of non-occupational carpal tunnel syndrome is not well understood. Ncbi Rofl, Discover Magazine, 27 Jan. 2010 But Alker has been defying the clock that has often been the etiology of agony for professional athletes. Alan Blinder, New York Times, 17 May 2023

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

Word History


Medieval Latin aetiologia statement of causes, from Greek aitiologia, from aitia cause

First Known Use

circa 1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of etiology was circa 1555

Dictionary Entries Near etiology

Cite this Entry

“Etiology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


eti·​ol·​o·​gy ˌēt-ē-ˈäl-ə-jē How to pronounce etiology (audio)
: the cause or origin especially of a disease

Medical Definition


variants or chiefly British aetiology
plural etiologies
: the cause or causes of a disease or abnormal condition
some types of cancer have a viral etiology
a multiple etiology in which biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors all play a roleM. E. Jackson et al.
: a branch of medical science dealing with the causes and origin of diseases

More from Merriam-Webster on etiology

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