||[Jun. 21st, 2008|10:05 am]
Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases
alienist, n. [ey-lee-uh-nist, ā-lē-ə-nĭst]
-The most modern definition of this word (though it is still not very common) is 'a doctor who specializes in mental illness, often as an expert witness in a sanity trial.' The word arrived in English circa 1860 C.E. and is thought to have been borrowed from French aliéniste, with the same meaning. The French term comes from earlier French aliéné 'insane,' taken from Latin alienatus, the past participle of Latin alienare. The general sense of alienare is 'to make another's, estrange,' as it was created from Latin alienus 'of or belonging to another person or place' (this is where we get English adjective alien 'strange, foreign.') However, there appears to have been a secondary defintion for alienare that meant 'to deprive of reason,' - likely originating as 'to make strange or different, to alienate mentally,' something of a euphemism for causing insanity.