Venus, the Roman goddess of love (identified with the Greek Aphrodite), loaned her name to two words of dissimilar meanings: venerable, with its sense of respect because of old age or associated dignity, and venereal, pertaining to sexual love. When the word disease follows venereal, it transforms venereal into a fearful word. Its dictionary definition is "arising from sexual intercourse with an infected person."
   A very virulent venereal disease is syphilis, which comes by its name through a Latin poem titled Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus ("Syphilis, or the French Disease"), written in 1530 by Girolamo Fracastoro (1483-1553), a Veronese physician and poet who was the first known victim of the disease. The poem's hero, a blasphemous shepherd named Syphilus, so enraged the Sun God that he struck him with a new disease as a punishment: "He first wore buboes dreadful to the sight, /First felt pains and sleepless past the night; /From him the malady received its name." Perhaps the poet was thinking of the Greek suphilos, which means "a lover of pigs."
   The most prevalent form of venereal disease is gonorrhea (from the Greek gonos, "that which begets," "a seed," plus rhoia, "a flowing"). This medical term was coined by an Italian physician in 1530, but it first appeared in print in 1547 in Boorde's Breviary of Healthe: "The 166 Chaptaires doth shew of a Gomary passion." Gomary was an early name for gonorrhea.
   Venereal disease made no distinction among the classes. Some of its distinguished sufferers were Herod, Julius Caesar, three popes, Henry VIII, Ivan the Terrible, Keats, Schubert, Goya, and Goethe. The goddess Aphrodite also loaned her name to matters pertaining to sexual activity. An aphrodisiac, a drug or food that arouses or increases sexual desire, honors her.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Venereal — Ve*ne re*al, a. [L. venereus, venerius, fr. Venus, Veneris, Venus, the goddess of love. See {Venerate}.] 1. Of or pertaining to venery, or sexual love; relating to sexual intercourse. [1913 Webster] Into the snare I fell Of fair, fallacious looks …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • venereal — [və nir′ē əl] adj. [ME venerealle < L venereus < venus, love: see VENUS] 1. a) having to do with sexual love or intercourse b) serving to arouse sexual desire; aphrodisiac 2. a) transmitted only or chiefly by sexual intercourse with an… …   English World dictionary

  • Venereal — Ve*ne re*al, n. (Med.) The venereal disease; syphilis. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • venereal — ► ADJECTIVE 1) relating to venereal disease. 2) formal relating to sexual desire or sexual intercourse. ORIGIN from Latin venereus, from venus sexual love …   English terms dictionary

  • venereal — early 15c., of or pertaining to sexual desire or intercourse, from L. venereus, from venus (gen. veneris) sexual love, sexual desire (see VENUS (Cf. Venus)). Used of sexually transmitted diseases from 1650s …   Etymology dictionary

  • Venereal — Having to do with sexual contact. The word venereal comes from Venus, the Roman goddess of love. A venereal disease (a morbus venereus) is contracted and transmitted by sexual contact. * * * Relating to or resulting from sexual intercourse. [L.… …   Medical dictionary

  • venereal — adjective Etymology: Middle English venerealle, from Latin venereus, from vener , venus love, sexual desire Date: 15th century 1. of or relating to sexual pleasure or indulgence 2. a. resulting from or contracted during sexual intercourse <… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • venereal — /vəˈnɪəriəl/ (say vuh nearreeuhl) adjective 1. (of a disease or infection) transmitted through sexual intercourse or contact: venereal disease. 2. infected with or suffering from venereal disease. 3. Obsolete adapted to the cure of such disease:… …   Australian English dictionary

  • venereal — /veuh near ee euhl/, adj. 1. arising from, connected with, or transmitted through sexual intercourse, as an infection. 2. pertaining to conditions so arising. 3. infected with or suffering from a sexually transmitted disease: a venereal patient.… …   Universalium

  • venereal — [15] Latin venus meant ‘love, charm’ (it came ultimately from the same Indo European base as produced English wish and winsome and Sanskrit vānchā ‘wish’). It was not that common as a generic term, its most familiar role being as the name of the… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

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