Tremble and tremor

Elan D. Louis, Chris C. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Human beings have been shaking for millennia, and among the tremor disorders, essential tremor is the most common. 1,2 The original usage of the curious word essential in this particular disease context has been the focus of prior historical study. 3 The word essential was used towards the end of the 19th century in order to indicate a medical diathesis that was often familial and occurred in isolation from other neurologic signs. 3 However, the historical origins of the English word tremor and its related verb tremble are a different matter and, to our knowledge, have not been considered previously. Furthermore, earlier English speakers' choice of these particular words and sound combinations to describe shaking has not been explored. In this collaboration between a neurologist and a historical linguist, we study the etymology (i.e., origins and first recorded usages), historical usage patterns, and phonology (i.e., sounds) of the words tremor and tremble in English. Also, we thread into this discussion considerations of semantics (i.e., lexical meaning). Our goal is to enhance our understanding of the historical origins, development, and meaning of medical terminology commonly used in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-710
Number of pages5
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 14 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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