• triage •
Pronunciation: tree-azh, tree-azh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. The decision-making process to allocate treatment to patients in order of the seriousness of their disease or wounds. 2. Prioritization, the process of determining the most important among a number of things that require attention.
Notes: The definition above leaves open the question of which patients get priority: the less ill or wounded, who will take less time to treat, or the more seriously ill or wounded, who need the most immediate and longer care? The decision has always been the latter, of course. Sometimes decisions are tough.
In Play: Medical triage is the prioritization of patients' needs for transportation or treatment when facilities are limited: "All methods of triage are procedures allowing triage nurses to prioritize illnesses or injuries for treatment without making a diagnosis." However, any system of prioritization may be called triage: "The educational system is an intelligence triage that sorts students according to the jobs they will receive or the universities they will be allowed to attend."
Word History: Today's Good Word obviously comes from French, where it meant "sorting, choosing", based on the verb trier "to sort, choose, cull". English borrowed the verb, too, turning it into try, sense of a trial, a test resulting in selection. French apparently got this word from Catalan and Provençal triar, but the trail ends here; Latin has no trace of an ancestor. (Today's most topical Good Word was suggested by Debbie Moggio, who worries that the preference in triage has shifted from the most seriously ill or wounded to least. We can discuss it in the Alpha Agora.)