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Correct and Preferred Usage

Roxanne K. Young

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Back-formation is the creation of a new word in the mistaken belief that it was the source of an existing word. Many back-formations are verbs, some of them derived from abstract nouns (ambulate from ambulation, diagnose from diagnosis, dialyze from dialysis) and others from agent nouns, real or supposed (beg from beggar, peddle from peddler, scavenge from scavenger). These examples of back-formations have achieved acceptance; however, many of those pertaining to medical jargon have not, including adhese, cyanose, defervesce, diurese, lyse, necrose, pex (from orchidopexy), plege (from cardioplegia), and torse. Medical jargon also includes many deviant singular forms of nouns derived by back-formation from plural forms (comedone from comedones, plural of comedo; fomite from fomites, plural of fomes) or supposed plural forms (bicep, forcep, pubis). Back-formations not recorded in dictionaries should be avoided in formal technical writing.


The patient was diuresed.


The patient was given diuretics [or underwent diuresis].

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