syphilis (n.)

infectious venereal disease, 1718, Modern Latin, originally from the title of a poem, "Syphilis, sive Morbus Gallicus" "Syphilis, or the French Disease," published 1530, by Veronese doctor Girolamo Fracastoro (1483-1553), which tells the tale of the shepherd Syphilus, supposed to be the first sufferer from the disease. Fracastoro first used the word as a generic term for the disease in his 1546 treatise "De Contagione." Why he chose the name is unknown; it may be intended as Latinized Greek for "Pig-lover," though there was also a Sipylus, a son of Niobe, in Ovid.

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