Question from member Anna in Germany:

“Why is a medical ‘patient‘ called a ‘patient‘ and what does it have to do with the adjective ‘patient‘ ?”

Hi, Anna. That’s a really interesting question! What I love about questions from our members is that they often bring up English language topics that, as a native speaker, you haven’t thought about yourself.

Let’s have a look at the word patient as a noun and as an adjective:

  • NOUN: He is a patient of Doctor Buller.
  • ADJECTIVE: I have had to wait for an hour. I think I am very patient.

Anna, the word ‘patient‘ comes from the Latin originally. In Latin the word patiens is the present participle of pati (to suffer or endure) – so you can see immediately how the modern English word ‘patient‘, someone suffering from an illness or injury and being cared for by a medical professional,  gets its meaning.

When ‘patient is used as an adjective, as  in ‘he is a very patient man‘, it means that he can endure or suffer a long wait until something is resolved.

You can see that the connection between patient as a noun, as in a doctor’s patient, and patient as an adjective can both be traced back to the same Latin root patiens, meaning to suffer or endure.

I hope that has helped clear it up for you, Anna.

Take a look at the dictionary entries for:

Anthony Hughes
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