Aetiology - etiolated

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The two words aetiology and etiolated sound similar, in that both begin 'ee-ti...' (IPA: /i: tɪ/) - though the stress pattern and third vowel are different, the first being 'e-ti-OLL-o-gy' (/,i: tɪ 'ɒ lə dʒɪ/) and the second 'EE-ti-oh-late-id', (/'i: tɪ əʊ ,leɪ tɪd/). The two words have no connection of meaning or etymology.

  • Aetiology (spelled etiology by American writers - see æ (spelling)) is a philosophical term meaning '[the study of] causation', or 'why things happen'. This is particularly used in medical and biologicl studies of the origins of disease.
The roots of [a]etiology are two Greek words, αἰτία (aitia) 'cause, reason' and λόγος (logos) 'discourse'.
  • The participial adjective etiolated (from the verb 'to etiolate') means 'pale', 'lacking in natural colour', and by extension 'long and straggly'. (It was originally used of plants that had grown in conditions without enough light - gardeners sometimes do this deliberately, to obtain blanched celery, for example.) Used figuratively of any organism, it means 'lacking vigour', 'pale', 'sickly' or 'feeble'.
Etiolated (NEVER aetiolated) is derived from the Latin stipula straw, through French éteule, and a Norman dialect word esteule or esteulle, meaning 'left to grow into straw [or other vegetable matter secondary to the main crop, such as haulms]'.