Blood Words

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Numerous scientific terms that describe the appearance or action of blood derive from the Greek word for blood: haima.

From the Greek element comes an English prefix spelled haem– in British usage and hem– in American usage.

haemoglobin / hemoglobin
An iron-containing protein pigment occurring in the red blood cells of vertebrates. The protein is composed of heme and globin commonly in a ratio of four molecules of heme to one of globin.

Note: Heme is a deep red iron-containing pigment. The British spelling of heme is haem. Both spellings are pronounced the same: /HEEM/.

haematite / hematite
A type of iron ore that is red, reddish-brown, or blackish with a red streak (like blood).

haemorrhage / hemorrhage
An escape of blood from the blood vessels; a flux of blood, either external or internal, due to rupture of a vessel; bleeding, especially when profuse or dangerous. Hemorrhage is also used as a verb.

haematology / hematology
A branch of biology that deals with the blood and blood-forming organs.

haematoma / hematoma
A tumor or swelling containing blood.

A mass of dilated veins in swollen tissue at the margin of the anus or nearby. Literally, “flowing with blood.”

haemophilia / hemophilia
A constitutional (usually hereditary) tendency to bleeding, either spontaneously or from very slight injuries. Hemophilia is sometimes called “the Royal Disease” because Queen Victoria and her daughters were carriers and passed it on to several European royal families, notably the Romanovs. Although the word hemophilia is a compound of the Greek words for blood and love, the German physician who coined the word was probably thinking of philia in the sense “a tendency to” rather than “a love of.”

haemophobia / hemophobia
Fear or horror at the sight of blood. Martin Ellingham in the PBS series Doc Martin suffers from haemophobia. (I spelled it that way because he’s British.)

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