Friday, February 8, 2013

Persian Word in English: Bezoar

Fans of Harry Potter will be interested in today's word. The English word "bezoar" (yes, it really is an English word!) is something indigestible that is caught in the stomach or somewhere in the gastrointestinal system. For example, the indigestible parts of food (such as seeds or pits) can form bezoars. The trichobezoar, an extreme form of hairball, is a bezoar formed from hair.

Bezoars extracted from the digestive system (often called "bezoar stones") were supposed in medieval and early modern medicine to have medicinal value as an all-purpose antidote to poison. For more information about bezoars and poison, see this Wikipedia article: Bezoar.

The English word comes Latin lapis bezoarticus, which in turn is from Arabic bazahr, borrowed from Persian padzahr, meaning counter-poison,  pad-zahr (Arabic does not have a "p" sound, so the initial Persian "p" is voiced as "b").

The image below shows bezoar stones in the Pharmacy Museum of Heidelberg Castle, Germany.

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