The roots of a word often give fascinating insight into the way people interpret the world around them. The names of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) are no different, how many of their origins did you know?

  • STIs were once known as ‘venereal diseases’ (VD’s); derived from Venus, Roman goddess of love.
  • Syphilis was named after the mythological Greek shepherd of the same name, who insulted the god Apollo and was cursed with a horrible disease as punishment.
  • Gonorrhoea was named by great Greek physician Galen in A.D. 131, who named it ‘flow of seed’ after mistakenly deducing penile discharge as ‘seed’ flowing out.
  • Gonorrhoea is also known colloquially as ‘the clap’, from the Middle English clapper for rabbit burrow – slang for brothel.
  • Chlamydia comes from the Greek for ‘cloak’, as it was believed by early researchers to ‘cloak’ the nucleus of an infant cell.



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