What does hemophiliac mean?
July 28, 2008 4:27 AM   Subscribe

What does hemophiliac mean?

I've always assumed that hemophiliac meant "one who likes to bleed," with the understanding that, of course, no one likes to bleed. But now it occurs to me that it could mean "one who likes their blood," meaning that they don't want to give up any of it, cause if they do they're going to lose a lot of it.

Any insight would be appreciated.
posted by brevator to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hemophilia means your blood doesn't clot properly.
posted by stereo at 4:31 AM on July 28, 2008

Yes, thank you stereo. I'm wondering about the origin of the word.
posted by brevator at 4:38 AM on July 28, 2008

Googled hemophilia + etymology and came up with this:


1854 (in Anglicized form hæmophily), from Ger. hämophile, coined in Mod.L. in 1828 by Ger. physician Johann Lucas Schönlein (1793-1864), from Gk. haima "blood" (see -emia) + philia "to love," related to philos "loving."
posted by k8t at 4:39 AM on July 28, 2008

All the etymology I've read seem ambiguous.
The prefix hemo, or haemo, means "pertaining to blood." Which aspect of blood does the word hemophilia refer to? The bleeding or the keeping?
posted by brevator at 4:57 AM on July 28, 2008

All the x-philes I can think of off the top of my head are people who like having lots of x around in their vicinity, not people who conserve x zealously (eg coprophiles do not desire constipation). So I think your original thought was closer, ie it means 'blood-lover' in the very loose sense of someone who throws the stuff around more copiously than is normal.
posted by Phanx at 5:02 AM on July 28, 2008

The bleeding. As the wikipedia article says, your body has a "predisposition" toward bleeding. It "likes" to bleed. It's a masochistic type of love.
posted by aswego at 5:03 AM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think you just have to take it as an example of the sort of made up greek used for lots of medical disorders. The -philia bit is not really referring to any kind of psychological state on the part of the sufferer. From the OED:

A constitutional (usually hereditary) tendency to bleeding, either spontaneously or from very slight injuries; hæmorrhagic diathesis.

1854 JONES & SIEV. Pathol. Anat. (1874) 62 Hæmophily appears to be often hereditary. 1864 Syd. Soc. Year-bk. 123 Report on Hæmophily. 1872 J. W. LEGG (title) A Treatise on Hæmophilia. 1879 KHORY Princ. Med. 4 Hæmophilia is..inherited almost exclusively by males, though capable of transmission through unaffected females.

Hence hæmophiliac (-flæk) a., affected with hæmophilia; also as n., a person so affected; hæmophilic (-flk) a., affected with hæmophilia; also as n., a hæmophiliac.

1864 Syd. Soc. Year-bk. 124 The hæmophilic have for the most part a soft white translucent skin. 1896 Lancet 18 Jan. 153/2 An arrest of severe hæmophiliac bleeding from the gums was obtained by an application of calcium phosphate. 1897 Boston Med. & Surg. Jrnl. 11 Mar. 227/1 In hemophiliacs, leeching, extraction of the teeth and circumcision are very hazardous operations. 1897 Lippincott's Med. Dict. 454/1 Hæmophilic... 2. A person affected with hæmophilia. 1935 WHITBY & BRITTON Disorders of Blood xiv. 272 On Mendelian principles a female may be a true hæmophilic if she is the daughter of a hæmophilia-transmitting woman and a hæmophilic male. 1936 Discovery Dec. 388/2 A preparation from egg-white, which reduces the clotting time of blood, provides new hope for haemophiliacs. 1938 New Statesman 2 July 7/2 Between thirty-five and seventy haemophilics are alive in Greater London to-day. 1946 Nature 28 Sept. 447/1 We have been able to study the effect, in some hæmophiliac patients, of a product containing 82 per cent fibrinogen. 1962 Lancet 27 Jan. 194/1 A pharmacist who is a hæmophiliac had noted that by taking hesperidin chalcone (a flavonoid) he could ward off hæmorrhagic episodes. 1966 DUNLOP & ALSTEAD Textbk. Med. Treatm. (ed. 10) 496 In centres with suitable facilities, a supply of this plasma specifically for use in hæmophilics serves a useful purpose. 1967 M. M. WINTROBE Clin. Hematol. (ed. 6) xviii. 937/1 Karyotype analysis has been carried out in several of the hemophiliac women and only in 2 instances has the karyotype been abnormal.
posted by roofus at 5:10 AM on July 28, 2008

This piece says the 'philia' is to be interpreted as 'tendency' rather than 'love', ie tending to bleed rather than loving one's blood.
posted by Phanx at 5:12 AM on July 28, 2008

It might reduce confusion to compare with words like "hydrophobic." Hydrophobic substances don't actually fear water, they just repel it. I blame all those 18th and 19th century natural philosophers who took excessive amounts of Latin in school.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:15 AM on July 28, 2008

The OED entry on -philia also supports up the "tendency" meaning:
Forming abstract nouns with the senses:

a. ‘Tendency to’ (as in HAEMOPHILIA n., SPASMOPHILIA n.).

b. ‘Love of or liking for’ (as in ANGLOPHILIA n., NECROPHILIA n.), esp. ‘sexual interest in’ (as in PAEDOPHILIA n.), usually corresponding to an adjective in -PHILE comb. form, -PHILIC comb. form, -PHILOUS comb. form.

c. ‘Relating to the staining of cells with a particular dye’ (as in BASOPHILIA n., eosinophilia n. at EOSINOPHIL n., POLYCHROMATOPHILIA n.), usually corresponding to an adjective in -phil (see etymological note at -PHILE comb. form).
"Spasmophilia", by the way, is "undue tendency of the muscles to contract, especially as caused by a deficiency of systemic calcium."
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:18 AM on July 28, 2008

Oxford Dictionary of English Entymology (1966) - haemat(o) - shortened haem(o) forms of Greek (h)aima blood.
-phile Greek terminal philos which means 'dear to' or 'beloved by'.
posted by adamvasco at 6:22 AM on July 28, 2008

Is everyone reading the same question that I am? It's perhaps not the best written question, but it's not hard to figure out brevator's intent. Especially after he clarified.

Maybe we can get on topic: brevator understands that hemophiliac literally means blood lover, but he is wondering the reasoning behind that name: does a hemophiliac love to bleed, or is blood precious to a hemophiliac because when he bleeds, he can't stop.

On topic
Merrian-Webster online says the term "hemophilia" originated in 1872, and I'd argue that by then it was more important to follow the style of medical terms than to actually make a lot of sense. In other words, there was no preference for either of your two specific meanings

If we want to discuss it for arguments sake, well, I couldn't find a definitive answer and I'm crippled by being in a hotel right now. I think phanx's approach works best: in all other cases that I can think of, a *iliac doesn't like to conserve or hoard whatever they're an *iliac of, instead they revel in it. So a hemophiliac likes to spout blood!
posted by no1hatchling at 6:33 AM on July 28, 2008

Remember that medical terms often refer to what the body does, not what the person does.

Joe the hemophiliac doesn't "like to" bleed. But his body does.
posted by gjc at 6:51 AM on July 28, 2008

Thanks for your defense no1hatchling. It seems that people got on topic after my second clarification. I have to admit it wasn't the most well written question. That's what I get for Askmefiing first thing in the morning.

Thanks to everyone else who answered.
posted by brevator at 7:22 AM on July 28, 2008

Uh, no problem! I've actually wondered exactly this before but been too lazy to really investigate, and right now all I can do is pull stuff out of my butt like above, since none of the free online dictionaries seem to be much help.
posted by no1hatchling at 8:21 AM on July 28, 2008

@no1hatchling: The American Heritage Dictionary is available free online at bartleby.com (advertising-supported). It beats the pants off any other free online English dictionary.
posted by brianogilvie at 9:55 AM on July 28, 2008

I have always assumed it was a sort of abbreviation of 'haemorrhagiophilia', which would mean a love of bleeding.

Ok, technically it's not an abbreviation, it's metonymy. Sue me.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:45 PM on July 28, 2008

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