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diphtheria (n.)

infectious disease, formerly frequently fatal, 1857, from French diphthérie, coined 1855 by physician Pierre Bretonneau (1778-1862) from Greek diphthera "prepared hide, leather," which is of unknown origin; the disease so called for the tough membrane that forms in the throat.

Bretonneau's earlier name for it was diphthérite (1821), which had been Englished as diphtheritis (1826). Related: Diphtheritic.

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