doctor (n.)

c. 1300, doctour, "Church father," from Old French doctour and directly from Medieval Latin doctor "religious teacher, adviser, scholar," in classical Latin "teacher," agent noun from docere "to show, teach, cause to know," originally "make to appear right," causative of decere "be seemly, fitting" (from PIE root *dek- "to take, accept").

Meaning "holder of the highest degree in a university, one who has passed all the degrees of a faculty and is thereby empowered to teach the subjects included in it" is from late 14c. Hence "teacher, instructor, learned man; one skilled in a learned profession" (late 14c.).

The sense of "medical professional, person duly licensed to practice medicine" (replacing native leech (n.2)) grew gradually out of this from c. 1400, though this use of the word was not common until late 16c. The transitional stage is exemplified in Chaucer's Doctor of phesike (Latin physica came to be used extensively in Medieval Latin for medicina).

That no man ... practyse in Fisyk ... but he be Bacheler or Doctour of Fisyk, havynge Lettres testimonyalx sufficeantz of on of those degrees of the Universite. [Rolls of Parliament, 1421]

Middle English also used medicin for "a medical doctor" (mid-15c.), from French. Similar usage of the equivalent of doctor is colloquial in most European languages: Italian dottore, French docteur, German doktor, Lithuanian daktaras, though these typically are not the main word in those languages for a medical healer. For similar evolution, compare Sanskrit vaidya- "medical doctor," literally "one versed in science." German Arzt, Dutch arts are from Late Latin archiater, from Greek arkhiatros "chief healer," hence "court physician." French médecin is a back-formation from médicine, replacing Old French miege, from Latin medicus.

Phrase what the doctor ordered "just the thing" is attested by 1914.

Origin and meaning of doctor

doctor (v.)

1590s, "to confer the degree of doctor on," from doctor (n.). Meaning "to treat as a doctor, administer medical treatment to" is from 1712; sense of "alter, disguise for the purpose of deception, falsify" is from 1774. Related: Doctored; doctoring.

updated on October 13, 2021

Definitions of doctor from WordNet
doctor (v.)
alter and make impure, as with the intention to deceive;
Synonyms: sophisticate / doctor up
doctor (v.)
give medical treatment to;
doctor (v.)
restore by replacing a part or putting together what is torn or broken;
Synonyms: repair / mend / fix / bushel / furbish up / restore / touch on
doctor (n.)
a licensed medical practitioner;
I felt so bad I went to see my doctor
Synonyms: doc / physician / md / Dr. / medico
doctor (n.)
children take the roles of physician or patient or nurse and pretend they are at the physician's office;
the children explored each other's bodies by playing the game of doctor
doctor (n.)
a person who holds Ph.D. degree (or the equivalent) from an academic institution;
she is a doctor of philosophy in physics
Synonyms: Dr.
Doctor (n.)
(Roman Catholic Church) a title conferred on 33 saints who distinguished themselves through the orthodoxy of their theological teaching;
Synonyms: Doctor of the Church
Etymologies are not definitions. From, not affiliated with etymonline.