Origin of leper
Words nearby leper
ABOUT THIS WORD
What does leper mean?
Leprosy causes bumps and wounds on and under the skin that gradually spread and can cause muscle weakness, nerve damage, and paralysis. If not treated effectively, it can result in the loss of body parts and eventually death.
Leprosy is also called Hansen’s disease, which is the name preferred by many medical professionals. It’s caused by a kind of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can be cured with a treatment of antibiotics and other drugs.
Cases of leprosy have been documented since ancient times. Due to its severe effects and contagiousness, many people who have had the disease throughout history have been stigmatized and treated as outcasts.
Due to this stigma, the word leper came to be used in a more figurative way to mean an outcast or someone who is excluded, especially for behavior or opinions considered unacceptable, as in Ever since I expressed my opinion, I’ve been treated like a leper around here.
However, both the figurative and literal senses of the word can be considered insensitive due to the fact that they can dehumanize those who have the disease. It is typically recommended to use a phrase like “a person with Hansen’s disease” instead of leper.
Where does leper come from?
The first records of the word leper come from around the 1300s. It comes from the Greek word leprós, “scaly,” which is related to lépein, “to peel.” The word leprosy isn’t recorded until around the 1500s, but descriptions of a disease thought to be leprosy date back much further—it’s even mentioned in the Bible. These may have influenced the figurative use of leper, which is first recorded around the 1400s.
Throughout history, leprosy has been a feared disease. Today, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics and other drugs, but advances in its treatment only came about in the early 1900s, due to contributions by African American chemist Alice Ball and others. In 2000, the World Health Organization declared that leprosy is no longer a public health problem on a global scale, meaning that cases of it have dropped to a low level, but hundreds of thousands of people are still diagnosed with it each year.
The skin and nerve damage that the disease can cause can be permanent, so early diagnosis is key. Before there was an effective treatment, those who didn’t die from the disease still had their bodies greatly damaged from it. Because it was often thought to be highly contagious, people with leprosy were often forced to live in communities known as leper colonies, further establishing the figurative usage of the word.
Did you know ... ?
What are some other forms related to leper?
What are some synonyms for leper?
What are some words that share a root or word element with leper?
What are some words that often get used in discussing leper?
How is leper used in real life?
Leper is most commonly used in a figurative way. In a medical context, its literal use is often avoided in favor of a phrase like “a patient with Hansen’s disease.”
— Atlas Obscura (@atlasobscura) October 16, 2015
Today is the 114th anniversary of the arrival of the 1st 365 Hansen's Disease patients in Culion, commencing the segregated leper colony project of the American administration in the #PH. Thru Act No. 1711, patients were required to relocate to the island.#MakeItHistoric pic.twitter.com/hfOgMd6Abc
— National Historical Commission of the Philippines (@NHCPOfficial) May 27, 2020
Hansen's disease patients really prefer to be called Hansen's disease patients now.
"Leper" has really awful connotations.
— NewMexican, Ex-Texan (@OGrady_Texas) November 25, 2018
How to use leper in a sentence
After being forced to fly next to this leper, their disgust is palpable.
I read a little more than they did, so I could say, “Touch me not, leper!”Mel Brooks Is Always Funny and Often Wise in This 1975 Playboy Interview|Alex Belth|February 16, 2014|DAILY BEAST
On the Mabolo road there is a Leper Hospital, and the ruins of a partly well-built jail which was never completed.The Philippine Islands|John Foreman
He may wash his hands in bichloride solution after anointing a leper, but it is scarcely necessary to do even that.Essays In Pastoral Medicine|Austin Malley
And, in fact, this poor Nabob was a leper, his millions from the East weighing on him like some terrible and mysterious disease.The Nabob|Alphonse Daudet
Skeat postulates a mute vowel by deriving lazar or leper from Eleazer—He whom God assists.Archaic England|Harold Bayley
Mlle. Crystal drew away her skirts from me as if I were a leper.The Bronze Eagle|Emmuska Orczy, Baroness Orczy