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Where does the word Patient come from?

by Dr.Sal MD on author

patient on stretcher

Sitting waiting to see your doctor for an hour, or limping for two years waiting for a knee replacement can make it seem obvious that “patient” must come from the word “patience”. And you would be wrong. “Patient” comes from the Latin 'patiens' which means “to suffer” and was coined long before waiting rooms or surgical wait lists existed to try our patience. Of course one might argue that waiting to be seen by a doctor IS to suffer.

Because of the negative connotations associated with "patient" - dying in the ER waiting for service, whining, hypochondriacs, first world problems, etc - some health professional have begun rankling to have the term reformed to a more politically correct term like health consumers, health seekers, clients, health care users and many more. Others have suggested we need to reframe the name with a warm and fuzzy term like health partners. But none have caught on so far. So for the foreseeable future, patient it is.


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