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See also: anesthésia


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an- +‎ aesthesia, from Ancient Greek ἀναισθησία (anaisthēsía), from ἀν- (an-, not) with αἴσθησις (aísthēsis, sensation).

Coined in 1846 C.E. by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in a letter to dentist William T. G. Morton, the first practitioner to publicly demonstrate the use of ether during surgery, writing:

Everybody wants to have a hand in a great discovery. All I will do is to give a hint or two as to names—or the name—to be applied to the state produced and the agent. The state should, I think, be called ‘Anaesthesia.’ This signifies insensibility—more particularly ... to objects of touch.[1]



anesthesia (countable and uncountable, plural anesthesias)

  1. (American spelling, Canadian spelling, medicine) An artificial method of preventing sensation, used to eliminate pain without causing loss of vital functions, by the administration of one or more agents which block pain impulses before transmitted to the brain.
  2. The loss or prevention of sensation, as caused by anesthesia, lesion in the nervous system or other physical abnormality.
    • 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Lectures 4 & 5:
      In some individuals optimism may become quasi-pathological. The capacity for even a transient sadness or a momentary humility seems cut off from them as by a kind of congenital anæsthesia.


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Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Small, Miriam Rossiter (1962). Oliver Wendell Homes. Twayne’s United States authors series, 29. New York: Twayne Publishers. OCLC 273508, page 55