Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for April 19, 2020 is:

alienist • AY-lee-uh-nist  • noun

: psychiatrist


“Enter two protagonists, also historical figures. One is the novelist Benito Pérez Galdós, ‘the most famous Spanish writer whom many English-speaking readers may not know by name or reputation.’ The other is the eminent alienist (as psychiatrists were then called) Luis Simarro.” — The Kirkus Reviews, 6 Mar. 2020

“Medical professionals (the kind known as ‘alienists‘ in the 1930s) have tried to improve the level of sunshine in M. Kinsler’s life with one miracle cure or another. There are anti-depressants, and mood elevators, and serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, and all have side-effects.” — Mark Kinsler, The Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle Gazette, 6 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

Alienist looks and sounds like it should mean “someone who studies aliens,” and in fact alienist and alien are related—both are ultimately derived from the Latin word alius, meaning “other.” In the case of alienist, the etymological trail leads from Latin to the French noun aliéniste, which refers to a doctor who treats the mentally ill. Alienist first appeared in print in English about mid-19th century. It was preceded by the other alius descendants, alien (14th century) and alienate (used as a verb since the 15th century). Alienist is much rarer than psychiatrist these days, but at one time it was a common term.

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