Cæsarean - Cæsarian - Cesarean - Cesarian

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The adjective caesarean gives spelling problems. It means either 'to do with the Roman family, title or person(s) Caesar, or 'a supporter of [any one of the Caesars]'; or a medical procedure.

A Caesarean section is the medical procedure of delivering a child through an incision in the mother's abdomen. Four spellings occur. The pronunciation for all of them is the same, with four syllables: 'see-ZAIR-i-en', IPA: /siː (or more loosely ə) ˈzeɪr ɪ ən/.

  • In British English, the first vowel sound is always represented by the two letters -ae- (or the digraph æ). In American English, this is reduced to -e-.
  • In both British and American usage, the final element can have either '-ean' or '-ian'. OED prefers '-ean'. Etymology is no help, as the original Latin has two adjective]]s: caesareus and caesarius.

All four of these spellings may be written with a capital 'C-' or lower case 'c-'.

So in British academic writing the best form is caesarean.

In informal English, the operation is sometimes abbreviated to Caesar: "She had to have a caesar with her second son". In American, more often than British, English, it may also be a c-section.
Etymological note: There is common belief that a caesarean section is so-called because Julius Caesar was born by the section, but this is probably not true: Caesar's mother Aurelia Cotta lived for 45 years after his birth, and 2000 years ago the operation was only carried out on women who had already died during childbirth. There is no record of a successful outcome on a living patient before 1500. It is possible, as Pliny the Elder thought, that Julius's ancestor, the founder of the family, was given the name as he had been born by such a section. Both of these explanations derive from the past participle caesus of the Latin verb caedere, 'to cut', and it seems simpler to regard that word as the legitimate root of the caesarean section - although, as the word section is also derived from a word (secāre) meaning 'to cut', it may seem otiose, 'a cutting cut'.