Etymology Of Veterinarian

Veterinarian comes from the Latin word veterinarius meaning, “having to do with beasts of burden.” In other words, the concept of a small-animal veterinarian is a relatively new one. The word didn’t come into common use until the mid-1600s.

The first veterinary school opened in Lyon, France, in 1761. That year is considered to be the true birth of the veterinary profession.

2011, then, is the 250th anniversary of the profession and the American Veterinary Medical Association is celebrating World Veterinary Year.

Use the term "vet" and you may cause confusion.
Use the term "vet" and you may cause confusion.

Today we’re going to talk about etymology and parts of speech.

People commonly have difficulty with the word, and usually just say “vet.”

Or, perhaps, it’s all they have ever heard and just say it out of habit.

Or, more likely, they just never gave it any thought at all.

Personally, I prefer using the entire word. It’s more professional. It’s more respectful. And, it’s a lot less confusing.

For example, when you say you’re “at the vet,” do you mean you’re seeing the doctor, or do you mean his hospital/clinic? Clients use the term both ways. It’s none too clear.

Veterinarian is a noun and refers to the doctor of veterinary medicine who treats your dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, cattle, snakes, hogs, birds, llamas, et cetera. There are large-animal veterinarians, small-animal veterinarians and mixed-practice veterinarians.

Veterinary is an adjective, meaning it modifies a noun. Therefore, one may speak of a veterinary hospital/clinic, a veterinary practice or a veterinary specialist. Veterinary must never be used as a noun, as in, “I’m going to take my pet to the veterinary.”

At one time our profession’s leading magazine, The Journal Of The American Veterinary Medical Association carried a feature in which readers could post questions or comments, and responses would be printed in subsequent issues.

Once I asked a question about veterinarians’ feelings and experiences with the term “vet.” One lady doctor wrote back, telling of the time she was out on a date not long after she began to practice in a small town. In the parking lot after dinner a friend of her date’s passed by, saying, “I see you’ve got the ‘vet’ out tonight.”

The practitioner was more than a little dismayed at being referred to as a “thing” one might drag out of a barn. That is, until she realized he was referring to her companion’s classic 1957 Corvette.

See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.