St. Vitus's Dance

   Although Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689), a prominent English physician, conducted studies of a nervous disease causing spasmodic movements of the face or limbs, the better-known name of "Sydenham's chorea" is St. Vitus's dance. St. Vitus's dance, a neurological disease earlier attributed to rheumatic fever, has, so to speak, waltzed itself into a permanent niche in the English language.
   Saint Vitus, born in the third century, was the son of a Sicilian nobleman. Together with his nurse, Crescentia, and his tutor, Modestus, he suffered martyrdom as a child during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. Although St. Vitus was not known to suffer from chorea, his name was given to the nervous disease St. Vitus's Dance because Vitus was thought to have power over epilepsy.
   For some unscientific reason, a belief arose in the seventeenth century that dancing around a statue of St. Vitus would ensure good health and protect against disease. In Germany, where the custom was particularly prevalent, the dancing sometimes reached a stage of frenzy, but there are no attested reports of beneficial results. St. Vitus's name was invoked as a protection from nervous disorders and from illness caused by bites of dogs and serpents.
   Although chorea, a Greek word meaning "dance," is not a word easily recognized by everyone, its sister words are well known: choreography, the art of composing dance arrangements for the stage, and the more evocative chorine, a chorus girl.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • St. Vitus's dance — /vuy teuh siz/, Pathol. chorea (def. 2). Also, St. Vitus dance /vuy teuhs/, St. Vitus dance /vuy teuhs, teuh siz/, Saint Vitus s dance. [1955 60; named after St. Vitus (3rd century), patron saint of those afflicted with chorea] * * * …   Universalium

  • St. Vitus's dance — /vuy teuh siz/, Pathol. chorea (def. 2). Also, St. Vitus dance /vuy teuhs/, St. Vitus dance /vuy teuhs, teuh siz/, Saint Vitus s dance. [1955 60; named after St. Vitus (3rd century), patron saint of those afflicted with chorea] …   Useful english dictionary

  • St Vitus's dance — n. = Sydenham s chorea (see CHOREA). * * * St Vitus s dance noun A non technical name for ↑Sydenham s chorea • • • Main Entry: ↑saint * * * St Vitus s dance 7 [St Vitus s dance] [snt ˌvaɪtəsɪz ˈdɑːns] …   Useful english dictionary

  • saint vitus's dance — ˈvīd.əs(ə̇z) , ˈvītəs(ə̇z) noun Usage: usually capitalized S&V Etymology: after St. Vitus, 3d century Christian child martyr who was invoked by sufferers from chorea : chorea * * * /vuy teuh siz/. See St. Vitus s dance. Also, Saint Vitus dance …   Useful english dictionary

  • Saint Vitus's dance — /vuy teuh siz/. See St. Vitus s dance. Also, Saint Vitus dance. * * * …   Universalium

  • Saint Vitus's dance — Saint Saint (s[=a]nt), n. [F., fr. L. sanctus sacred, properly p. p. of sancire to render sacred by a religious act, to appoint as sacred; akin to sacer sacred. Cf. {Sacred}, {Sanctity}, {Sanctum}, {Sanctus}.] 1. A person sanctified; a holy or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • St. Vitus's dance — St. Vi•tus s dance [[t]ˈvaɪ tə sɪz[/t]] also St. Vi•tus dance [[t]ˈvaɪ təs[/t]] St. Vi•tus dance [[t]ˈvaɪ təs, tə sɪz[/t]] n. pat chorea 2) • Etymology: 1620–30; after St. Vitus (3rd cent.), patron saint of those afflicted with chorea …   From formal English to slang

  • Saint Vitus's dance — noun see Saint Vitus dance …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • St Vitus's dance — [ vʌɪtəsɪz] noun old fashioned term for Sydenham s chorea. Origin so named because a visit to the shrine of the Christian martyr St Vitus was believed to alleviate the disease …   English new terms dictionary

  • Saint Vitus's dance — Saint Vi′tus s (or Vi′tus ) dance′ [[t]ˈvaɪ tə sɪz[/t]] n. pat chorea 2) …   From formal English to slang

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