1879, American English, formulated by Dr. Joseph Lawrence and Jordan Wheat Lambert as a multi-purpose disinfectant and anti-septic for surgery. In 1895, after it was discovered to kill germs commonly found in the mouth, the Lambert Company started marketing it as an oral antiseptic. The product was named for Joseph Lord Lister, F.R.S., O.M. (1827-1912), the English surgeon, who in 1865 revolutionized modern surgery by applying Pasteur's discoveries and performing the first ever antiseptic surgery. Lister objected in vain to the use of his name on the product.
Lister (attested from 1286, an Anglian surname) is contracted from litster, from Middle English liten "to dye, color" (from Old Norse; see lit (n.1)) + fem. agent suffix -ster; hence, "a dyer." Unless it is from lister (late 14c.) "clerk whose duty is to read and expound Scriptures; one who reads books, a reader" (from a variant of French litres).
updated on October 10, 2017